CHICAGO — Chicago drivers hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend should expect the usual traffic challenges — but high gas prices might keep more people at home.
Typically, Friday traffic at the start of a three day weekend is brutal and AAA said Chicago traffic should be no worse than last year. The motorist organization predicts 1.6 million people in Illinois will be on the road this weekend.
“AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel to experience a slight dip as economic improvements from last year are not strong enough to spur an increase in travelers,” said AAA Regional President Brad Roeber. “Economic growth in the first quarter was strong, but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt, which has reduced economic growth expectations.”
Higher gas prices may also reduce traffic this year. Locally, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $4.40 per gallon, about 12 cents a gallon higher than last year. Fuel prices statewide are on average $4.06 per gallon, up from $3.87 in 2012.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will also be doing its part to minimize congestion and delays by suspending all road construction starting at 3 p.m. Friday through Monday at midnight.
"Memorial Day weekend historically marks the unofficial start of summer, with thousands of motorists expected to hit the road this weekend," Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said in a statement. "We want to ensure the safety of the motoring public and help them get to their destinations by suspending all non-emergency road work where possible to reduce potential roadway congestion, improve safety and traffic flow."
IDOT is urging drivers to slow down, obey the posted speed limits and drive carefully through work zones as reduced work zone speed limits are still in effect where posted even when no workers are present. More importantly, law enforcement agencies will also be watching for drunk drivers.
"If you're caught unbuckled or driving drunk, you'll be given a ticket or arrested," Schneider said. "It is not about money; it's not about tickets. It's about saving lives."