Thanksgiving Travelers Undaunted by Record November Gas Prices, Officials Say

By ANDY ZIEMINSKI, Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS (November 18, 2007) - Joel Adamos likes to go on road trips during holidays, but not this Thanksgiving—record-high gas prices are one reason he will be staying home.

"It's extreme. It's very extreme," the Annapolis resident said Friday as he pumped $90 of gas into his Ford Expedition at an Exxon station on Defense Highway, where a gallon of regular was $3.03.

But Adamos might be the exception. Transportation officials estimate that 674,000 Marylanders will hit the region's roads this Thanksgiving, a 1.3 percent increase over last year when gas was 87 cents cheaper.

The number of travelers is expected to be up in almost all modes of transportation this holiday, with at least 2 million people likely to come or go from the region on airplanes and trains over the holiday, officials say.

David Kirkland is one of those people who will be hitting the runway instead of the highway this holiday, because the $120 direct flight from Baltimore to Manchester, N.H., was the cheapest and most convenient option for visiting family there.

"When you consider gas prices and tolls, and the wear and tear on your car, it almost makes more sense to fly now," said the Annapolis resident, who used to make the 500-mile trip by car.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas rose to $3.04 in Maryland last week, the first time it has been above $3 in November, according to AAA officials.

"Motorists will definitely be feeling the pinch of higher fuel prices this Thanksgiving," said AAA spokeswoman Ragina Averella. But it "will not discourage Americans from driving to see their loved ones."

David Hoffberger agreed.

Hoffberger, who is hosting family at his Arnold home this Thanksgiving, said high gas prices would not deter him from traveling on a major holiday.

"For summer vacation it might, but for those traditional holidays it wouldn't," Hoffberger said.

The peak time for Thanksgiving travel is Wednesday through Sunday, although most officials say holiday travel began last week and will continue into early next week.

A combined 1.5 million travelers—15 percent more than last year—will pass through Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport during the 11 days from the Friday before to the Monday after Thanksgiving, said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

"We attribute that to a lot of new flights that have been added at Dulles since last Thanksgiving," Yingling said. The airport has added 124 domestic and international flights this year, including routes to Orlando, Oklahoma City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

An average 11-day period sees 1.2 million passengers, according to Yingling.

Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport is expecting 490,000 people from Monday to Monday, which is about 42,000 more than an average week, said Cheryl Stewart, an airport spokeswoman.

BWI's peak day will be Wednesday, when officials anticipate 74,000 travelers will pass through the gates, Stewart said.

To make the journey smoother, Stewart encouraged travelers to use BWI's Web site to monitor their flight status, get parking information and check in online, if possible.

Amtrak is also gearing up for a busy week, with 600,000 people expected to ride the rails nationwide between Tuesday and Monday Nov. 26, said spokeswoman Karina Romero.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is "by far" the busiest travel day of the year, with an anticipated 116,000 passengers nationwide, Romero said.

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