If you're one of the 1.8 million Illinoisans hitting the road this Labor Day holiday, get your gas now and leave early. That's what travel experts advise, anticipating traffic congestion and a spike in fuel prices, which are already trending upward.
The AAA projects about 33 million Americans will jump into their cars, hit the airports, or take other forms of transportation to escape over the long weekend. That represents a bump of 2.9 percent from 2011.
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"It's a continuing sign Americans continue to prioritize travel," AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.
However, the Chicago area will face steep fuel prices compared to the rest of the country, with average rates of $4.27 for a gallon of regular hitting motorists on Wednesday. The national average was $3.80, AAA found. That's expected to continue to rise related to problems caused by Hurricane Isaac, experts at Gasbuddy.com predicted.
Traffic analyst INRIX projected bottlenecks near O'Hare International Airport at the start of the holiday with congestion over the region's highways starting to be troublesome around 2 p.m. Friday and continuing through the early evening.
The Illinois tollway projects about 1.7 million vehicles on its roads Friday, compared to norms of 1.4 million.
At least, the tollway is promising to go easy on drivers this holiday by suspending temporary lane closures for construction.
But there's no break for scofflaws, state police and local authorities say. Patrols for drunken drivers and speeders will be beefed up over the long weekend. Nine people died in Illinois last Labor Day in traffic crashes, police reported.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Department of Aviation is projecting about 1.5 million fliers will use O'Hare and Midway International Airports through early next week. Tuesday is expected to be the busiest day at O'Hare with 203,000 passengers.