Motorists hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holidays can expect better weather, cheaper gas and a bit of a break from highway construction in the North Texas area. However, even though highway workers will largely be absent Wednesday through Sunday on area road projects, shoppers hitting major commercial areas such as Grapevine Mills and North East Mall must still deal with some diverted lanes, closed ramps and other obstacles.
“Some ramps are closed but there will not be major traffic lane shifts or construction during the holiday blackout dates,” said Robert Hinkle, spokesman for the North Tarrant Express, a $2.5 billion makeover of Northeast Loop 820 and Texas 121/183.
As North Texans gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, skies are expected to be clear Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day, with a pleasant weather forecast that includes highs in the upper 60s and lows in the mid 40s – perfect weather for throwing a football in the yard after turkey dinner.
However, shoppers who plan to hit the stores on Black Friday should be prepared for a possible return of wet weather. According to the National Weather Service, a 50 percent chance of showers is in the forecast.
About 3.3 million Texans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday beginning Wednesday. That’s a whopping 11.9 percent increase compared to last year, AAA says. Nationwide, about 42.2 million people will travel, up 11.4 percent from last year – but still far below the 2005 record of 58.6 million travelers.
“It’s been very hard to get people out, because the economy has been in pretty dire shape,” said AAA Texas spokesman Dan Ronan. “As the economy has started to improve, we’re starting to see more people talking about getting out and traveling, taking trips.”
Lower gasoline prices are helping. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in Fort Worth fell seven cents during the past week to $3.13. That’s still 46 cents per gallon higher than drivers were paying during Turkey Day week last year. The statewide average is $3.17, and nationally it’s $3.35 per gallon.
Wednesday is expected to be the busiest day of the year for Amtrak, a long-distance passenger rail service with daily departures from Fort Worth to Chicago, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Sunday also is one of the rail company’s busiest days, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.
“People have decided to take off more than just Thanksgiving day or the day before. Some people are taking the week, but nearly all of those people need to be back to work or school Monday,” he said.
State troopers will patrol highways, watching for intoxicated drivers, and those who ignore the state’s law requiring motorists to slow down to 20 mph below the speed limit while passing emergency vehicles with lights flashing. The law now applies to not only police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, but also tow trucks, a Texas Department of Public Safety official said.
On the North Tarrant Express project, shoppers next week could encounter a bit more congestion than usual on the Loop 820 frontage road, from Rufe Snow Drive to Iron Horse Drive, where traffic will be reduced to one lane.
In Grapevine, motorists seeking to get to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport’s north entrance should build in extra time for delays because of the $1 billion DFW Connector project along the Texas 114/121 corridor. No lane closures are expected through 8 p.m. Monday because of the Thanksgiving holiday, said NorthGate Constructors spokeswoman Selma Stockstill.
Statewide, highway work generally grinds to a halt on projects, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez said. However, motorists could encounter lane closures on some long-term projects. For example, for those traveling west of Fort Worth, motorists can expect traffic to be reduced to one lane in each direction on Interstate 20 in Parker County, just west of Weatherford.