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Travel to increase for holiday season

By Caitlin Rickard crickard@lebanondemocrat.com • Nov 27, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Thanksgiving and the holiday season means family, and for a lot of people that includes the downside of traveling to get there.

AAA predicts 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s estimated around 953,041 people are expected to travel by car in Tennessee, and nationwide, 90 percent of all travelers will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations.

In the southeast region, people are estimated to travel 525 miles round-trip. According to AAA, Wednesday will be the busiest travel day with 37 percent of travelers leaving for their destinations.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation said those traveling through the Volunteer State for the Thanksgiving holiday can expect a “smooth drive” again this year on the busy holiday.

TDOT is set to stop all lane closure activities on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state.

From Wednesday at 6 a.m. through Monday at 6 a.m., all construction-related lane closures will also be stopped to better assist travelers.

“Nearly a million travelers in Tennessee are expected to drive to their holiday destination this year,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Halting road work during this busy time will provide maximum capacity on our roadways and help alleviate congestion, especially during the predicted peak travel days of Wednesday and Sunday.”

Though construction sites will be closed, workers still may be on site in some construction zones, so those traveling are encouraged to drive safely, be alert and obey speed limits, especially in work zones.

“The Governor’s Highway Safety Office and TDOT are partnering with law enforcement across the state for the I-40 Challenge, with the goal of having zero fatalities on the 455 miles of I-40 in Tennessee,” said GHSO Director Kendell Poole. “The Tennessee Highway Patrol will have troopers stationed every 20 miles on I-40, along with increased law enforcement on all highways. We want everyone to have a safe holiday, so remember to buckle up, drive the speed limit and don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve had anything to drink.”

According to TDOT, some long-term lane closures are set to stay in place on some construction projects for motorists’ safety.

Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen said a big thing for local police, knowing the increased number of travelers going in and out of town, will be DUI checkpoints.

“Unfortunately around the holidays, and with all the travel, you’ve got more people drinking and driving,” Bowen said.

He said he understood a lot of people would be traveling and the police department would have numerous concerns over the holiday season.

“A big concern is shoppers and safety. Wrecks do go up, especially in parking lots because there’s that increased amount of people in parking lots shopping,” Bowen said. “Another big thing is traffic safety so we’ll have sobriety checkpoints and DUI saturations, especially around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.”

Updated travel and construction information across the state can be found on the TDOT SmartWay website at tn.gov/tdot/tdotsmartway or by calling 5‑1‑1. 

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