Roads, airports expected to be busy this weekend despite higher fuel costs

While people aren’t staying home because of gas prices, some are making changes to their travel plans, AAA says.

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The Kennedy Expressway is clogged with cars as rush-hour commuters and holiday travelers try to make their way through Chicago on November 21, 2017.

The Kennedy Expressway is clogged with cars as rush-hour commuters and holiday travelers in 2017.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hitting the roads this weekend? Expect to have a lot of company this holiday weekend as car travel rebounds to nearly pre-pandemic levels.

Chicago’s airports will be much busier, too. While the number of passengers at O’Hare and Midway is expected to increase sharply from last year, airline travel will be down around 20% from 2019.

“Even though gas prices are high, it’s not deterring people from traveling,” said Molly Hart, public relations spokesperson for AAA Illinois and Northern Indiana.

AAA expects to see 1.9 million Illinois residents travel over the Memorial Day weekend, with 1.71 million of those travelers choosing to go by car, Hart said.

That’s similar to 2017 levels, Hart said. It’s also an increase from last year, when 1.8 million Illinois residents traveled over the holiday weekend, and 1.65 million traveled by car, according to Hart.

While people aren’t staying home because of gas prices, some are making changes to their travel plans, Hart said.

“Many may look at cost-cutting measures to offset the added expense,” Hart said. “That could be driving shorter distances, staying in a less-expensive hotel, or spending less on shopping, dining and entertainment.”

Chicago airports are expecting their busiest summer travel weekend since 2019.

The Chicago Department of Aviation anticipates 1.4 million passengers will pass through O’Hare and Midway airports between Thursday and Tuesday, marking a 47.4% increase from last year at O’Hare and a 5% increase at Midway.

Despite the surge, the number of passengers is down about 17.5% compared with 2019 over the same period, according to Christine Carrino, the Aviation Department’s deputy commissioner for communications.

The Aviation Department also warned travelers they may have long waits at security and might encounter traffic congestion near O’Hare and Midway.

The Illinois Tollway expects 7.7 million cars on the tollways this year, up 2% from a year ago.

With COVID-19 cases rising and federal mask mandates eased significantly in recent months, Hart advises passengers to follow CDC guidelines about wearing face masks and to bring their vaccination cards. “Things do vary,” she said.

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