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N.C. Thanksgiving travelers prefer road to air

Posted November 23, 2009 11:36 a.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2009 3:07 p.m. EST

— More North Carolinians will travel this Thanksgiving than last year, and flying has become their least favorite means of transportation, according AAA Carolinas.

AAA estimates that 1,167,000 North Carolinians will travel more than 50 miles from home, an increase of 2.3 percent over 2008. Travel by automobile will be up 3.1 percent, and by train or bus up 2.8 percent, while travel by air will drop by 6.6 percent.

Those changes come even as gas prices have spiked in the past month, driving the statewide average cost of a gallon up to $2.53. That's 63 cents higher than last Thanksgiving.

"Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and after a year of economic turmoil, people want to get away," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "Gas prices have been creeping upward again, but it isn't enough to deter most people¹s vacation plans."

More people will be traveling by bus or train (107,000) than by plane (77,000).

This marks the third straight year air travel has declined. As causes, AAA cited new fees for baggage and other services, peak-fare surcharges, a reduction in the number of flights, use of planes with less capacity, and delays.

For drivers, state troopers started "Operation Slow Down" Monday to crack down on speeders on interstates and major four-lane highways across the state.

Transportation crews have been working to clear some highways damaged by natural disasters.

N.C. Highway 12, at Rodanthe in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, has been reopened. The remnants of Hurricane Ida flooded it earlier in November. From the Monday after Thanksgiving, traffic will be reduced to one lane for reconstruction work.

In the western part of the state, crews are still fixing up Interstate 40 after a rockslide in October. The interstate is still closed, and a nearly 140-mile detour, starting in Asheville, has been set up.

Travelers will find cloudy skies and wet weather. There's a shot at light rain or drizzle this work week, and Thanksgiving could see some stray showers.

"The clouds will be hanging around, and they're going to hang around for a while," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

"Finally, by Friday, the sun comes out – just in time for shopping," she said.