The Drive: Holiday tips for travelers, and revelers staying home

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2013 - 10:06 AM

With more than 43.4 million people traveling to their Thanksgiving dinner table, according to AAA, today’s Drive offers tips for those heading out, and for those staying home.

An overwhelming majority of holiday travelers — 38.9 million — will hit the roads between Wednesday and Sunday, with the biggest crunch late Wednesday. Thanksgiving Day could produce a few knots on the roads for those making a later getaway.

Sunday also will produce tight conditions as people return to town. Travel experts say Friday is generally a lighter travel day, except near the shopping malls. Those places will likely be busy Thursday night, too, as many stores open just after dinner.

Motorists can be thankful that gasoline prices are right around $3 a gallon. Even better: Road construction has all but ended for the season, so there won’t be many orange cones to dodge. Here are a couple exceptions: The Interstate 90 Dresbach Bridge near La Crescent linking Minnesota and Wisconsin is under repair. In Duluth, southbound I-35 from Lake Av. to 21st Av. W. is closed for bridge inspection. That means no access to I-535 to Superior, Wis. Use the Hwy. 2 bridge a few miles to the south to get the land of cheese.

Weather permitting (be sure to check the forecast), drivers can expect smooth sailing on I-35, I-90 and I-94. Transportation departments in neighboring Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa report no major road disruptions. Still, handy websites such as AAA’s TripTik and MnDOT’s 511.org display current road conditions and hazards to avoid. They are free and a good place to go before driving away from the Twin Cities. Motorists can also dial 511 and get up-to-the-minute road reports for Minnesota or any of the many states that are part of that system.

More 500,000 people are expected to pass through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport during the five-day holiday period, so “give yourself plenty of time to make the experience festive, not frustrating,” said Jeff Hamiel, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

He recommends arriving 2 hours before departure because lines tend to be longer and move slower than at other times of the year. Many people are not as familiar with check-in and screening procedures as seasoned business travelers, he said.

It’s a good thing that Terminal 2 (Humphrey) now has two security checkpoints. The terminal has seen bigger crowds due to the increased operations of Sun Country and Spirit Airlines. New this year: MSP Navigators, those friendly volunteers in the bright green vests, are ready to answer questions and guide you through the maze. Don’t hesitate to ask for their help.

For those staying in town, most of the suburban transit providers will not operate on Thursday and will offer reduced service on Friday. Metro Transit won’t run the Northstar Commuter line on Thursday and has a reduced schedule on Friday. Most bus routes and the light-rail line will follow a Saturday schedule, which means less frequent service but lower fares.

Runners will take over some Minneapolis parkways Thursday: West River Parkway from 11th Av. S. to 4th Av. N. from 6 to 11 a.m., all of Lake Harriet Parkway from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., and all of Lake Calhoun Parkway from 9 a.m. to noon. □

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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