Traffic rolls along eastbound on Perkiomen Avenue in Exeter Township ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. State transportation officials said roads will be busy with Thanksgiving travelers beginning Wednesday. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)
Thanksgiving travelers could be facing traffic delays during one of the busiest driving weekends of the year, but they’ll at least be paying less at the pumps as gas prices continue to drop.
The nation’s average price of gasoline has declined for the ninth consecutive week, falling 6.2 cents from a week ago to $3.27 per gallon on Monday, according to GasBuddy.
The Pennsylvania average for a gallon of regular unleaded is down is down 24 cents from a month ago to $3.59 on Tuesday, and down 44 cents per gallon from a year ago when the statewide average was $4.03, according to AAA.
A recent drop in demand for gas and decreasing oil prices have helped keep pump prices lower, analysts said.
Gas demand decreased from 9.49 million to 8.95 million barrels per day last week, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, and increased oil production has boosted U.S. crude inventories, lowering oil prices.
“As millions of Americans gear up to hit the road for Thanksgiving, the national average is seeing its longest streak of declines in over a year, reaching a ninth straight week as gas prices fall to their lowest since January,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said in his weekly blog.
The average in Berks for a gallon of regular unleaded on Tuesday was $3.56, while it was $3.57 in Chester and Delaware counties, $3.54 in Montgomery County and $3.39 in Lehigh County.
The EIA’s latest forecast released Nov. 7 predicted the average price per gallon of regular unleaded will continue to go down nationwide to $3.41 in December and $3.36 in January.
On the roads
Meanwhile, state transportation officials said roads will be busy with Thanksgiving travelers beginning Wednesday.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike will handle 3.3 million vehicles over the holiday stretch, turnpike officials predicted.
Thanksgiving traffic is expected to be up 2.3% on the turnpike compared to 2022, they said.
The turnpike is projected to have 690,000 vehicles on Wednesday — its busiest day of the holiday — and 360,000 on Thursday, 535,000 on Friday, 545,000 on Saturday and 525,000 on Sunday.
Turnpike maintenance crews suspended roadwork beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday until 11 p.m. Sunday, officials said
All lanes in each direction of the turnpike were to be open to accommodate heavier traffic volumes, except during possible emergencies. Extra maintenance personnel were also to be patrolling the roadway, along with state police.
State officials released a statement reminding drivers to wear their seat belts, drive sober and eliminate distractions behind the wheel as they prepared to take to the road for Thanksgiving.
PennDOT traffic control specialists will be monitoring a network of 1,000 traffic cameras to help keep roads open and traffic flowing, officials said.
“We want everyone to arrive at their holiday destinations safely, but when crashes do happen, PennDOT and first responders will work quickly to help the motorists involved and keep traffic moving,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said.
The state Operation Safe Holiday program kicked off Nov. 14 with the “Click It or Ticket” Thanksgiving enforcement mobilization running through Nov. 27. Aiming to keeping Pennsylvania’s youngest travelers safe on the road, state police are also holding child safety seat fitting clinics at several locations across the state.
Throughout Operation Safe Holiday, law enforcement will also conduct sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols beginning Wednesday through the New Year’s holiday to crack down on drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.
According to PennDOT data, during the 2021 holiday travel period beginning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and running through Jan. 2, 2022, there were 1,276 crashes involving an impaired driver, resulting in 41 fatalities. Those were the most recent holiday figures available.
Holiday activities can increase stress and fatigue for motorists and can contribute to distracted driving, said turnpike CEO Mark Compton.
“Most importantly, if you are tired it is crucial that you ask someone else to drive or take a rest before getting behind the wheel,” he said.
State officials encourage motorists to visit the “Historic Holiday Traffic” page at 511PA.com, which allows users to choose their region and view an hour-by-hour, color-coded representation of traffic speeds to help them decide the best times to travel during the holiday. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, or by calling 5-1-1.
The weather should be pleasant over the holiday, according to AccuWeather.
Thanksgiving is expected to be mostly sunny and breezy with a high of 54 degrees and an evening low of 33, forecasters said.
Partial sunshine is expected Friday, with a high of 49 and a low of 29.
Saturday and Sunday will likely be cloudier with highs in the mid-40s, and AccuWeather says Monday could bring some snow and rain.