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Travelers will pay more for gas this Thanksgiving

Traffic will be lightest early Thanksgiving morning, AAA says. Chicago’s airports are expected to be the busiest on Sunday.

The Kennedy Expressway is clogged with cars.
Traffic on Wednesday afternoon could make your Thanksgiving trip take 2.5 times longer.

Chicago-area residents will face the highest Thanksgiving Day gas prices they’ve seen in five years, experts say.

Regular, unleaded gas prices are projected to be $2.74 per gallon on Thanksgiving, up 17 cents from last year. That would be the highest figure since 2014, when the average price was just over $3, according to the American Automobile Association.

Experts attribute the price increase to geopolitical events and local policy decisions.

President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China has certainly played a factor. So have bubbling tensions in the Middle East. But the Illinois gas tax implemented in July is perhaps the single-biggest reason.

“Thanksgiving prices would probably be 10 cents lower than last year if that gas tax hadn’t been implemented,“ said Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis at

The state’s tax on motor fuel doubled to 38 cents per gallon. As part of the bill, Cook and its surrounding counties were given the latitude to increase a separate gas tax to an additional 8 cents per gallon.

Higher gas prices affect travel behavior. Thirty percent of people surveyed said high gas prices were impacting their travel plans, according to GasBuddy.

And while it might seem like common sense, it’s backed up by hard data: If you’re driving out of town for the holiday, leave early.

Traffic on the roads will be at its worst on Wednesday between 4:15 and 6:15 p.m., according to AAA. Driving out of the city at this time will likely take you about 2.5 times longer than usual.

The best time to start your journey would be at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, according to Google Maps data.

Sixty-six percent of Chicagoans will be leaving for Thanksgiving via car, according to GasBuddy, a figure slightly higher than last year. That will account for more traffic.

In Illinois, about 2.5 million will be hitting the road this year, a 2.7% increase from 2018.

The Chicago Department of Aviation expects more than 1.9 million passengers to pass through the city’s two airports during the next seven days, a 2% increase from last year.

“This is a special time of year, and we take great pride in helping travelers get where they’re going,” Aviation Commissioner Jamie L. Rhee said in a statement.

O’Hare expects more than 1.5 million people to pass through between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2; about 400,000 travelers are expected to use Midway. Sunday is projected to be the busiest day at both airports.