Roads and airports expected to be busy this weekend despite rising fuel costs

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Are you hitting the road this weekend? Expect plenty of company this holiday weekend as car travel rebounds to near pre-pandemic levels.

Chicago airports will also be much busier. While passenger numbers at O’Hare and Midway are expected to rise sharply from last year, air travel will decline by around 20% from 2019.

“Even though gas prices are high, that doesn’t deter people from traveling,” said Molly Hart, public relations spokeswoman for AAA Illinois and Northern Indiana.

AAA expects to see 1.9 million Illinois residents travel during Memorial Day weekend, including 1.71 million travelers choosing to get around by car, Hart said.

That’s similar to 2017 levels, Hart said. It’s also an increase from last year, when 1.8 million Illinois residents traveled over the holiday weekend and 1.65 million traveled by car, according to Hart.

Although people aren’t staying home because of gas prices, some are changing their travel plans, Hart said.

“Many might consider cost-cutting measures to offset the extra expense,” Hart said. “It could be traveling shorter distances, staying in a cheaper hotel, or spending less on shopping, dining and entertainment.”

Chicago airports are expecting their busiest summer travel weekend since 2019.

The Chicago Aviation Department predicts 1.4 million passengers will pass through O’Hare and Midway airports between Thursday and Tuesday, marking a 47.4% increase over last year at O’Hare and a 5% increase at Midway.

Despite the surge, passenger numbers are down about 17.5% from 2019 over the same period, according to Christine Carrino, deputy commissioner of communications for the Department of Aviation.

The Aviation Department also warned travelers that they could have long waits at security and could encounter traffic jams near O’Hare and Midway.

The Illinois Tollway projects 7.7 million cars on tolls this year, up 2% from a year ago.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and federal mask mandates eased significantly in recent months, Hart advises passengers to follow CDC guidelines for wearing face masks and bring their vaccination cards. “Things vary,” she said.

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