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Area highways very busy for Thanksgiving travel

A record 55 million Americans are traveling this week, journeying 50 miles or more away from home to celebrate Thanksgiving with three storms spanning the country. How will holiday travel affect Kansas and Missouri drivers?

Those numbers will impact local residents as I-70, I-35, I-29  and I-49 become clogged as major north/south and east/west routes across the nation’s heartland. As snow and other frozen precipitation is expected Thursday morning, both the Kansas and Missouri Highway Patrol are asking drivers to be vigilant, take their time and obey speed and seatbelt laws.

Highways and airports may be filled with the most cars in recent memory thanks to the best economy in 60 years. The projection is a 4.9 percent increase over last year, and means this 2019 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years (since 2005), with 2.5 million more people taking to the skies, roads, rails and waterways compared with last year.

Interstate 70, already one of the nation’s busiest freeways and the bane of many a cross-country driver, is expected to be extremely busy this year–and dangerously so. The traffic is made worse by the poor condition of the highway. Missouri voters turned down a nominal gas tax increase in 2018 which would have significantly improved the road surface, exited and bridges across the state.

Drivers may want to consider alternate routes across the state such as 50 or 36 Highways.

“The thriving economy is giving travelers a lot to be thankful for this year,” says Jim Lehman, president of AAA. “Two-and-a-half million more Americans will have the chance this year to create new lasting memories with their families and friends, which is very exciting to see.”

The Thanksgiving holiday period is defined as Wednesday, November 27 to Sunday, December 1.


» Even though gas prices have been dropping lately across the nation, they’re rally low in the midwest.

» The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded across the country was $2.32 Monday, up from $2.54 a year ago, AAA said.

» Missouri’s average was $2.24 for a gallon of regular unleaded, down from $2.65 on Thanksgiving 2018.


» Officials at Kansas City International airport recommend that air travelers check the weather forecast at their destination and any connecting cities. Airlines sometimes permit ticket changes at no cost when weather impacts travel, officials said. Weather is scheduled to turn storm, or at least rainy/snow on Thanksgiving night into Friday.

» Consider whether a carry-on is needed, officials said, because overhead bin space can become limited. Security checkpoints also could be busy, so give yourself enough time to make it through security.

Travel experts told Metro Voice the best advice they can give is just “plan ahead” and leave early. Giving yourself an extra hour or two on the road will make all the difference in stress level, accommodate unexpected travel delays, and make the trip much more enjoyable.

–Dwight Widaman