I don’t know about you, but I have a morbid fascination with the Wednesday afternoon pre-Thanksgiving travel dynamic in Chicago. The gridlock on the expressways is nothing short of amazing. And the Metra trains? Soooo packed on Wednesday after work. It’s enough to ruin my Thanksgiving appetite completely. And that’s saying a lot.
So to help me with my travel fears, I turned to WBEZ’s Traffic Reporter Sarah Jindra. Sarah has been talking Thanksgiving traffic all morning, so I asked her (via G-chat) for her inside tips on what to expect - and how best to avoid it. You can thank me with an extra piece of pie tomorrow.
Me: Jindra - I always avoid travel on Thanksgiving Wednesday. Is it as bad as I think it is? Or is it all hype?
Sarah: No hype.. it’s going to get really heavy around 2 or 3 this afternoon! The hype is the morning Black Friday traffic.. it’s non-existent.
Me: Really? That’s because everyone is already out at 3 am.
Sarah: Haha… actually, mall parking lots haven’t even been that packed the last couple years in the early morning hours. You’ll see long lines at the big box stores though, and delays heading into those lots (like Best Buy).
Me: Today - Which road is going to be the worst? Meaning, which area hosts the most Thanksgiving dinners?
Sarah: Well today it’s mostly going to get crazy on the roads because people will be trying to get out of town…so maybe that means we don’t make good turkey dinners here in Chicago?? My bet is on the Kennedy though!
Me: That’s your lead? That’s what you start with this afternoon on your broadcasts?
Sarah: The Kennedy? Or the whole turkey bit?
Me: The Kennedy! Although, maybe there is something in the turkey bit…
Sarah: Hahaha, gotcha;) Yeah…it’s also going to be heavy on the Tri-State to Wisconsin and on I-80-94 and the IN toll road…and to switch it up, I’d lead with Metra sometimes too! Modified schedule today to help you get home early! Go Metra!
Me: Nice!!! Go Metra indeed! Last question: Does Navteq follow which bars will be packed with high school reunions tonight?
Sarah: Haha NAVTEQ does not… but I can give you list in the western suburbs:)
Me: Great! I’ll post your traffic info below!!!! Thanks Sarah! Happy Thanksgiving!
Sarah: u too!!!!
Here is Sarah’s definitive list of local travel information:
- IDOT suspending road work where possible starting at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Check out projects where you’ll still see closures.
- Tollway will also suspend temporary construction closures starting today. One spot where there will still be construction: Tri-State tollway.. NB traffic shifted to the left btw Irving Park Rd and Balmoral.
- Wednesday afternoon: Added afternoon trains! Canceled evening trains. All lines will be on a modified schedule.
Thursday: Sunday/Holiday Schedule
- Friday: BNSF will be on regular weekday schedule with some additions and cancelations. Rest will operate on normal weekday schedule. Again, modified schedule.
- CTA on Sunday/Holiday schedule on Thursday
- Normal weekday schedule on Friday
- Airports are reminding travelers to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes early.