Holiday traffic crush gets early start
Posted November 20, 2012
Updated November 21, 2012
Heavy holiday traffic expected to begin Wednesday got an early start on North Carolina’s roadways, with a crash Tuesday morning that tied up traffic on Interstate 85 in Davidson County, southwest of Greensboro.
Authorities said a truck carrying hazardous materials overturned about 10 a.m. on the northbound side of the interstate near Thomasville, prompting lanes closures for nearly six hours. An Orica USA Inc. tractor-trailer carrying equipment and materials from its nearby facility crashed.
A statement Orica USA Inc. said one of its rigs was carrying an oxidizer – which the company described as similar to fertilizer – from its facility nearby when it wrecked. A hazardous material clean-up crew was dispatched to remove the material from the scene.
The company said the driver was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation but was conscious and alert.
Traffic was stymied in other parts of the state on Tuesday as well.
Two separate morning wrecks briefly shut down lanes on U.S. Highway 15/501 in Chapel Hill and southbound Interstate 440 in Raleigh.
At the Outer Banks, state transportation officials reported intermittent closures to four-wheel drive access on N.C. Highway 12 on Pea Island because of high winds and rough seas. The roadway has been closed to regular traffic since it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but it has reopened periodically to four-wheel drives.
Holiday travel is expected to increase slightly this Thanksgiving over last year because of the recent drop in gas prices, according to AAA Carolinas.
The auto club is predicting about 1,260,500 North Carolinians will travel 50 miles or more. About 1,134,000 – or 90 percent of them – will drive. That marks an increase of about 11,000 travelers over last year.
Gas prices in North Carolina have dropped significantly in the past two months. The statewide average on Tuesday was $3.31 per gallon, according to AAA Carolinas. The amount is 54 cents less than the average of $3.85 at the pump in mid-September.
The state Department of Transportation announced Monday it would suspend most construction projects along interstates and major routes between 4 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Monday to ease holiday traffic. Motorists are reminded to leave early and avoid peak hours as much as possible.
Transportation Secretary Gene Conti also reminded motorists of the latest “Click It or Ticket” campaign to crack down on those not wearing seat belts. State and local law enforcement officers will increase enforcement during the campaign, which runs through Nov. 25.
“We want everyone to make it home safely, not only during the holidays but all year long,” Conti said. “So buckle up, and make sure your passengers are buckled up, also.”