Thanksgiving Rush Unleashes Travel Chaos in New York

By Paul LomaxFred Dreier and Aidan Gardiner  on November 21, 2012 8:18am  | Updated on November 21, 2012 1:44pm

NEW YORK CITY — Travelers in and out of the city Wednesday are in for nightmarish delays, experts warn.

The day before Thanksgiving, long known as one of the worst days of the year to travel, will present New Yorkers and tourists alike with clogged roadways near airports and more traffic jams around the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route, according to traffic guru “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz.

“My crystal ball shows me three to five mile-long backups at the George Washington Bridge in both directions,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “The Throgs Neck and Verrazano bridges will be hard hit along the Long Island Expressway.”

Those roadways along with Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, Belt Parkway, Pulaski Skyway, and New Jersey Turnpike will all likely have 60 to 90 minute delays starting Wednesday as people rush in and out of the city, Schwartz said.

Penn Station swarmed with travelers at midday Wednesday, with lines for the LIRR as long as 15 people deep. Travel troubles were expected to worsen later in the afternoon when more people begin their journeys. 

Large crowds had already clogged the New Jersey Transit waiting room Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s crazy madness when they call out the track number,” said Joey Diaz, 21. “There is a lot of pushing. People are annoyed.”

Grand Central Terminal was packed, too, with lines at Metro North ticket stations as many as 20 people deep.

Preparation for the Thanksgiving Parade could cause problems on the Upper West Side, with 77th and 81st streets closed between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, Schwartz said. Those streets will be closed at 10 a.m. starting Wednesday, NYPD officials said.

Central Park West will be closed between 59th and 81st streets from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 3 p.m. Thursday, police said.

Many more streets on the Upper West Side will be closed Thursday morning until about 3 p.m. for the parade, police said.

Aside from closures for the parade, Schwartz said, Thursday morning may be the best day for traveling.

“It’s a great time to fly with half-empty flights and cheap seats,” Schwartz said. “The Thanksgiving Day Parade is the only traffic squeeze that morning. The real crunch comes in the afternoon and evening with a brief respite from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.”

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