Nov 22, 2022 - News

Chicago to see a swell in Thanksgiving traffic

Photo of traffic on a road with a train whizzing by.

Cars sit in traffic on the Kennedy Expressway as mass transit whizzes by. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago highways and airports will see some of the busiest traffic in the country this week, according to AAA.

Why it matters: Over 54 million Americans are projected to travel at least 50 miles or more this week for Thanksgiving.

  • National Thanksgiving travel is expected to remain slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels, but Illinois will probably see its highest traffic since 2005, per the report.
  • It predicts nearly 2.8 million Illinoisans are hitting the road for the holiday.

By the numbers: United expects 650,000 travelers at O'Hare this week and 460,000 travelers on Sunday alone. That's up 12% from last year.

  • Overall bus and train travel is expected to be up 23% from last year.
  • The good news is that U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stopped by yesterday to announce O'Hare has been cleared to start building a new terminal.

What they're saying: "While gas prices and other inflationary pressures weigh on budgets, travel remains a top priority for Americans," Debbie Haas of AAA said in a statement.

Driving: According to traffic app Waze, yesterday was the best day to drive.

  • Avoid driving tomorrow afternoon if you can.
  • Sunday is the best day to return — surprisingly, avoid Saturday.

Zoom in: The other top travel destinations in our area are Naperville, Joliet, Schaumburg and Aurora.

  • According to AAA, the traffic on 290 between Chicago and Hillside is expected to double between 3pm and 5pm tomorrow.
  • Similarly, I-94 is expected to brim with motorists.
  • Reverse traffic downtown will also spike during rush hour.

Be safe: Sorry for the buzzkill, but Chicago is the sixth-deadliest city for traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving travel, per the car insurance app Jerry.

  • Thanksgiving sees 43% more fatalities than Christmas, making it the deadliest holiday.
  • The most treacherous times to drive: 6pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

The bottom line: To avoid the worst traffic, travel before 11am tomorrow and on Thanksgiving.

Monica's parking tip: If you've always dreamed of finding easy parking in Lakeview, visit on Thanksgiving morning. It's a ghost town.


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