Travelers hit the road, ready to see family for the holidays

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Nearly 49 million people are projected to hit the roads and another 4.5 million people are expected to fly this Thanksgiving, and as many people in Central Illinois do the same, the Illinois Department of Transportation is reminding people of safe driving habits to follow. 

IDOT said it’s as easy as wearing a seatbelt, driving sober and paying extra attention in construction zones. Traffic on I-57 was steady throughout the day on Wednesday, and many people said they’re glad there weren’t too many challenges because they’re just ready to see family. 

Charles Gibbs said he and his wife see their kids a few times a year and that’s why he said driving five hours south from the Chicagoland area was no problem. His family was meeting up in Kentucky because it’s a halfway point for everyone to gather. 

He said his only traffic delay was about 30 seconds. 

It was similar for Dug Pac, who was also making his way down I-57 toward Effingham. 

Pac traveled with two parakeets and said as long as they have their treats, they’re good to travel with. 

Paul Wappel with IDOT said they’re prepared for the holiday rush. 

“Lanes where we’ve had construction or work going on, work zones, we’re going to open those,” Wappel said. 

He added that hopefully by opening lanes where they’re able to, it can help minimize traffic disruptions. 

For Mila Cupp, rest area attendant, she said she’s excited to see lots of travelers again.

“We got here about 5:30 this morning,” Cupp said. “The parking lot was half full and it’s been steady all day long.” 

She’s worked at various rest stops in Central Illinois for nine years, and said she sees the difference post-COVID. 

“It’s just so many people and it’s fascinating, everybody’s in a good mood. If you stay here long enough you’ll see the smiles and the laughter,” Cupp added. 

In Savoy at Willard Airport, people filed through security, ready to board planes and visit family around the world. 

“After Champaign, I’m going to Poland. I’m a citizen of Poland,” Marcin Rudz, a traveler, said. 

Cupp feels travel will die down on Thanksgiving itself, but knows it won’t last long. 

“But then it’ll pick up again Friday through the weekend because everybody will be going back home, so we’ll be busy again,” she said. 

Triple A is projecting this year will be the third busiest Thanksgiving in about 20 years since they started tracking.

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