Travelers pass through Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on August 2. Airport officials are preparing for about 30,000 passengers to pass through their doors Wednesday and Sunday this Thanksgiving weekend. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY — This holiday season is “one of the busiest in recent history,” as air and ground travel begins to return to levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AAA.
The association released its annual holiday travel outlook last week, predicting that 55 million Americans will fly or drive to a Thanksgiving destination this year. This includes 49 million people traveling by car and around 4.5 million people traveling on vacation. If the outlook materializes, it would be an increase of 1.5% over last year and around 98% in the number of holiday trips in 2019.
“The upcoming vacation is expected to be one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” Brian Ng, senior vice president of membership and travel marketing for AAA Utah, said in a statement.
Wednesday’s numbers will be the busiest day on Utah and US roads. And while a small storm is expected to move through Utah on Wednesday morning, weather isn’t expected to play a big role in Utah travel this week.
UDOT expects heavy traffic on Wednesday and Sunday
The Utah Department of Transportation predicts Wednesday afternoon and early evening will be the busiest times for travel, especially on I-15. Drivers should expect:
- Delays of up to 15 minutes on I-15 southbound in Salt Lake County from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Delays of up to 10 minutes on I-15 northbound in Davis County from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Delays of up to 10 minutes on I-15 southbound near Nephi from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Although post-Thanksgiving travel is expected to span the following long weekend, UDOT is also predicting delays of up to 20 minutes near Cedar City on I-15 northbound from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. . Black Friday shopping can also lead to busy streets, especially near malls and malls, the agency advises.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason said the agency would suspend all construction work to open as many lanes as possible, as has been the case for other major tourist holidays. However, there are some traces of work that may impact certain routes.
- I-80 and I-215 in eastern Salt Lake County: Lanes are moved between 1300 East and 2300 East on I-80 and between 3300 South and 4500 South on I-215 due to the ongoing road surface improvement project for both freeways.
- I-80 near the I-84 interchange: Westbound I-80 is reduced to one lane near Echo Dam as crews replace the driving surface on bridges on Echo Dam Road. The project will continue until early December before stopping for the winter, according to UDOT.
- I-70 near the I-15 interchange: The freeway is reduced to one lane in both directions between Cove Fort and the I-15 interchange as crews replace the driving surface and barrier walls on the I-70 bridge over I-15 .
For those dependent on public transportation, the Utah Transit Authority will run its normal schedule on Wednesday. There are no service on Thanksgiving Thursdayhowever, and the agency will operate on its Saturday-Friday schedule.
Gas prices drop across Utah
Those hitting the road will notice significantly lower gas prices starting with the summer holiday season, though prices will remain just over a quart per gallon higher than they were during the summer vacation season. from the previous Thanksgiving.
AAA spokesman Andrew Gross said the national average is also down, with overall gas demand falling from 9.01 million barrels to 8.74 million barrels last week, even as national gasoline stocks have increased significantly. Growing supply combined with lower demand drives down the national average. The organization showed the national average at $3.63 a gallon on Tuesday, 3 cents cheaper than Monday and 19 cents cheaper than a month ago.
“This Thanksgiving will be about 20 cents more than a year ago, and a dollar more per gallon than pre-pandemic 2019,” Gross said in a statement Monday. “However, we can be grateful that gas prices are moving in the right direction at the moment.”
AAA says the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Utah finally slipped below $4 a gallon, falling to a statewide average of $3.97 on Tuesday. Gas prices are generally cheaper along the Wasatch Front and central Utah this week, while they are higher in southern Utah and parts of northeastern Utah.
Gas is cheapest in Sevier County ($3.75 a gallon), followed by Carbon ($3.80), Box Elder ($3.83), Emery ($3.84), Juab and Weber ($3.85 each). That’s still about $4.70 a gallon in Piute County, which is the most expensive price in the state, according to AAA data.
Salt Lake City airport prepares for large crowds
Meanwhile, many Americans will be taking to the skies for travel this week. The 4.5 million flights planned for the holiday represent an 8% jump from last year.
That translates to about 30,000 travelers passing through the Salt Lake City International Airport gates on Wednesday, in addition to an unknown number of people reaching connecting flights at the airport. Airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said the biggest rushes are expected to be from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
This could lead to parking problems, as the airport ran out of parking spaces during the 2021 autumn holidays, when nearly 30,000 passengers passed through the airport over the weekend. To combat this, airport officials are advising travelers to book parking in advance or take UTA’s TRAX service to the airport.
Alternative parking areas could also be opened if the economy parking lot reaches capacity, airport officials said. They add that travelers should plan ahead and know what is allowed through security lines and what can be taken on a plane as carry-on baggage, ahead of time, to avoid delaying queues. .
Sunday should also be a busy day at the airport as people fly back to Utah or fly home from visiting Beehive State. Volmer said another 30,000 passengers are expected to come through the airport gates on the last day of the long weekend.
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