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9 million cars to hit the road over Thanksgiving weekend — more than 2019

Nearly 1.6 million passengers are expected to travel through Midway and O’Hare — shattering the totals from last year.

Passengers at O’Hare Airport’s Terminal 1.
More than 1.2 million passengers are expected to pass through O’Hare Airport between Tuesday and Monday.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Travelers planning to leave Chicago for the extended Thanksgiving weekend should expect extended commute times beginning Wednesday with as many as 9 million cars expected to hit the Illinois Tollway system, officials said.

That’s even more than the 8.9 million who traveled during this time in 2019 — before the pandemic.

“To ensure safe travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Illinois Tollway is reminding our customers to be prepared before driving,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director José Alvarez.

Wednesday is expected to be the busiest day with an estimated 1.8 million drivers using the 294-mile tollway system. That route on an average day has about 1.6 million vehicles on the road.

To help accommodate the large number of people traveling, construction activity will be restricted and temporary lane closures will be suspended beginning at noon Wednesday through 9 a.m. Monday. Construction may continue behind barriers in existing construction zones so drivers are reminded to follow work-zone speed limits.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is expecting a busy week at both O’Hare and Midway airports. The agency anticipates more than 1.2 million passengers traveling through O’Hare between Tuesday and this coming Monday — a 155% jump from this time last year.

Midway is expected to welcome 288,000 passengers during the same period, which is 102% more than last year.

“We are excited to welcome travelers to Chicago’s airports and help make it possible for families to gather for this holiday week,” Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said in a statement. “There is no greater priority for us than providing a safe, secure and reassuring environment for travelers and employees alike.”

The busiest day of travel at both airports is expected to be Sunday, but there will also be a significant number of passengers traveling on Wednesday.

The Aviation Department recommends arriving earlier because of added security measures. To help ease congestion, it is recommended to avoid curb drop-offs and think about taking public transportation.