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Thanksgiving traffic in LA could be worse than usual in 2018

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More people will travel for the holiday, says a new report

Gridlock in LA
The worst time to travel will be Wednesday afternoon.
Vince360/Shutterstock

Planning on traveling this Thanksgiving weekend? You’d do well not to hit the road between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, according to a new report from AAA and transportation analyst INRIX.

That’s when the report predicts traffic will reach peak congestion levels in Southern California, doubling the length of many cross-town trips. The most traffic-clogged stretch of road is likely to be Interstate 5, heading south through Orange County.

The evening of Tuesday, November 20, is also likely to be a bad time to drive—especially for those headed to the airport. The authors of the report predict that the drive from Downtown LA to LAX (which takes a little less than 30 minutes when traffic is light), will last roughly an hour at that time.

Contributing to the congestion will be a record-number of travelers flying to and from the city. According to Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, roughly 2.52 million passengers will travel through the airport between November 16 and November 26—up from 2.42 million travelers in 2017.

The busiest travel day is expected to be Monday, November 26, when more than 251,000 people will fly in and out of the airport. November 25 will be almost as crowded, with 249,000 passengers expected. The slowest travel day? Thanksgiving itself, when just 183,000 travelers will pass through LAX.

Vehicle congestion in and around the airport could be worse than usual, with 1.13 million cars and trucks expected on airport roadways during the holiday week.

Nationwide, traffic is likely to be heavier this year than last, according to the INRIX report. In fact, its authors project that more people will travel long distances in 2018 than in any other year since 2005.

The number of people flying or driving to their destinations is expected to rise around 5 percent, while the number of people taking planes, buses, and boats could go up 1.4 percent.

All told, more than 50 million travelers will make journeys 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving holiday, says the report.

Still, Los Angeles residents will avoid much of the worst congestion. In New York and Boston, some commutes are projected to be nearly four times slower than on a normal day.

For those averse to crowds it may be also be a good idea to avoid Disneyland. Anaheim is expected to be the third-most popular destination over Thanksgiving weekend in 2018.