State officials offer Thanksgiving travel outlook

By Katie Lannan

Projecting a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in traffic volume as Thanksgiving approaches, with more than 1.5 million people moving through Logan Airport and a "very unsettled weather pattern," state officials are recommending travelers take additional time and caution this week.

"There will be a lot of extra travelers out there over the next few days and this week, and because of the nature of holiday travel, many of these travelers will not be everyday users of our transportation facilities. So if you are traveling, it's especially important to pay extra attention to your surroundings," Massachusetts Department of Transportation highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said said at a press conference Monday at MassDOT's South Boston highway operations center.

All road construction will be shut down to accommodate the anticipated traffic volume, with crews mobilizing only for emergency responses, Gulliver said.

"For those of you who may not follow the forecasts as closely as many of us up here do, we are also in a very unsettled weather pattern over the next few days, so we are preparing for a wintry mix tomorrow, and then again it looks like we might get some of the same this weekend into Sunday," he said. "We have sufficient materials and resources and equipment to deal with the weather, but we also need the help of the traveling public."

Gulliver said free coffee will be available for motorists at 18 service plazas across the state, including on the Massachusetts Turnpike, from 10 p.m. Thursday through 5 a.m. Friday.

Coffee and fresh air can help a drowsy driver, but the best solution is to "pull over to a safe location and take a quick nap," said Jeff Larason, director of highway safety in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Larason urged drivers to keep their cellphones out of sight to avoid distractions. He cautioned that safety officials are also focused on drowsiness and impairments like cannabis – the first two adult-use marijuana retailers in Massachusetts are set to open Tuesday – and alcohol.

"Many of you might know that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is commonly known as Blackout Wednesday," Larason said. "It's a time when a lot of people go out and celebrate. What we encourage people to do is if you're going to be celebrating over the holidays, plan ahead, get a ride share, a taxi, or use the MBTA so you can get to and from your destination safely and avoid the challenges of impairment."

MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez said the T will run a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving, with a few exceptions including "enhanced" service levels on the Silver Line 1 route that serves the airport, and a regular weekday schedule on Wednesday and Friday. Commuter rail will have added capacity on selected trains leaving Boston Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Drivers traveling this week will find gasoline prices three cents lower than last week, with regular unleaded averaging $2.71 a gallon, AAA Northeast announced Monday. The average price per gallon a year ago was 18 cents lower, at $2.53, according to AAA.