Millions of travelers hitting Chicago-area roads on Memorial Day weekend

Officials point to two hours on Friday afternoon as the worst time to travel over the three-day stretch

SHARE Millions of travelers hitting Chicago-area roads on Memorial Day weekend
Traffic on Illinois highway

Road construction will be curtailed but State Police patrols will be expanded over the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Sun-Times Media

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, about eight million vehicles will use Illinois tollways, including nearly two million drivers on Friday afternoon, officials estimate.

To make things a little easier, construction work will be cut back over the long weekend.

Tollway officials, for instance, are suspending most temporary maintenance and construction lane closures from noon to Friday to 9 a.m. Tuesday.

However, Illinois drivers will still be paying more for gasoline than those in some other states. The average price in the state is $3.03 per gallon, up from $2.94 last month, according to the American Automobile Association. The national average is $2.86. Refinery maintenance apparently caused a recent nickel-per-gallon price spike in parts of the Midwest.

AAA says the worst time to travel in the Chicago area will be on Friday, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. — with nearly 2 million vehicles on area roads, about 400,000 more than usual.

The group says about 2.1 million Illinois residents plan to travel over the holiday, with most — 1.9 million — driving.

Meanwhile, more than 1.7 million people are expected to travel through O’Hare and Midway airports between Thursday and Tuesday, an increase of about 4.4% from last year, the Chicago Department of Aviation said. Friday will be the busiest day at the airports.

Drivers can expect to see more Illinois State Police on the roads, too.

Troopers have been conducting special enforcement patrols since earlier this month, and that will continue through Tuesday, according to the State Police. Enforcement will focus on speeding, seatbelt use and distracted driving, said State Police Sgt. Jacqueline Cepeda.

Distracted driving also is a top concern of Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez. He also urged drivers to dial *999 for roadway assistance and to use navigation apps like Waze for information on lane blockages, roadway incidents and the location of the tollway’s assistance emergency vehicles.

Based on data collected last year over the Memorial Day weekend, Waze is expecting that during this year’s holiday weekend, the greater Chicago area will see 16% more drivers, leading to a 7% drop in speeds.

Some ongoing work zones still could impact traffic, including on the Tri-State’s Edens spur, where traffic will remain reduced to one lane in each direction, and at the Tri-State’s the 159th street interchange.

In all, about 37.6 million cars are expected to hit the roads over the weekend across the country, AAA estimates, up about 1.3 million from last year.

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