Here’s When Utah’s Roads and Airports Will Be Busiest as Thanksgiving Travel Gets Back to Normal | Tech US News

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Travelers walk through Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on August 2. Airport officials are preparing for about 30,000 passengers to walk through their doors on Wednesday and Sunday this Thanksgiving weekend. (Spencer 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 begin to return to levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to AAA.

The association released its annual holiday travel forecast last week, projecting that 55 million Americans will fly or drive to a Thanksgiving destination this year. This includes 49 million traveling by car and about 4.5 million more flying during the holidays. If the outlook comes to fruition, it would be a 1.5% increase over last year and about 98% of 2019 holiday travel.

“The upcoming holiday season is projected to be one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” Brian Ng, AAA Utah’s senior vice president of partners and travel marketing, said in a statement.

Wednesday figures to be the busiest day on Utah and U.S. highways. And while a small storm is forecast to move through Utah Wednesday morning, the weather is not expected to greatly affect travel to Utah this week.

UDOT predicts heavy traffic Wednesday, Sunday

The Utah Department of Transportation predicts that Wednesday afternoon and early evening will be the busiest time 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 pm to 7 pm
  • Delays of up to 10 minutes on I-15 northbound in Davis County from 3 pm to 7 pm
  • Delays of up to 10 minutes on I-15 southbound near Nephi from 5 pm to 8 pm

While post-Thanksgiving travel is expected to be spread out over the next long weekend, UDOT is also projecting delays of up to 20 minutes near Cedar City on northbound I-15 from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday afternoon Black Friday shopping can also lead to busy streets, especially near shopping and retail centers, the agency advises.

UDOT spokesman John Gleason said the agency will suspend all of its construction work to open as many lanes as possible, as has been the case for other major holidays. However, there are some traces of works that may affect some lanes.

  • I-80 and I-215 in eastern Salt Lake County: Lanes are being moved between 1300 East and 2300 East on I-80 and between 3300 South and 4500 South on I-215 due to the ongoing project to improve the road surface of both freeways.
  • I-80 near the I-84 interchange: Westbound I-80 is reduced to one lane near Echo Dam because crews are replacing the driving surface on the bridges over Echo Dam Road. The project will continue through early December before it stops 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 because crews are replacing the driving surface and barrier walls on the I-70 bridge over I-15.

For those who rely on public transportation, the Utah Transit Authority will run its normal schedule on Wednesday. there it is there is no service on Thanksgiving Thursdayhowever, the agency will work on Saturday and Friday hours.

Gas prices are down in Utah

Motorists will notice considerably lower gas prices starting with the summer holiday season, although prices are still a little more than a quarter per gallon higher than they were last Thanksgiving.

Andrew Gross, a spokesman for AAA, says the national average is also in decline as global gas demand fell from 9.01 million barrels to 8.74 million barrels last week, even as domestic gasoline stocks have increased significantly. Growing supply mixed with lower demand is pushing the national average down. The organization reported 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 higher than a year ago and a dollar higher per gallon than a pre-pandemic 2019,” Gross said in a statement Monday. “However, we can be thankful that gas prices are moving in the right direction for now.”

AAA says the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Utah finally fell below $4 a gallon, falling to an average of $3.97 statewide on Tuesday. Gasoline prices are generally cheaper along the Wasatch Front and central Utah this week, while they are more expensive in southern Utah and parts of northeastern Utah.

Gas is cheapest in Sevier County ($3.75 per gallon), followed by Carbon ($3.80), Box Elder ($3.83), Emery ($3.84), Juab and Weber ($3.85 each). It’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 is bracing for big crowds

Meanwhile, many Americans will be taking to the skies for travel this week. The 4.5 million flights planned for the holidays represent an 8% jump from last year.

That translates to about 30,000 travelers coming through the gates of Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday alone, plus an unknown number of people arriving on connecting flights at the airport. Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for the airport, said the heaviest attacks 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 fall break, when nearly 30,000 passengers passed through the airport that weekend. To combat this, airport officials advise travelers to reserve their parking in advance or use UTA’s TRAX service that goes to the airport.

Alternate parking areas may also be opened if the economy parking lot reaches its maximum capacity, according to airport officials. They add that travelers should plan ahead and know what is allowed through security lines and what can be brought on a plane as hand luggage, in advance, to avoid queues.

Sunday will also be a busy day at the airport as people return to Utah or return home after visiting the Beehive State. Volmer said another 30,000 passengers are expected to pass through the airport’s gates on the final day of the long weekend.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah by way of Rochester, New York.

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