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Both the westbound (left) and the eastbound lanes of Interstate 24, as seen from Missionary Ridge, are congested on the evening of November 22, 2016. Travel experts are calling for a record number of travelers to hit the road this Thanksgiving Holiday.
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Travelers to hit road for Thanksgiving; Chicago airport strike won't hamper flights

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By the numbers

* 89 percent of all travelers will drive to their destinations.

* 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more.

* An estimated 1,086,352 people are expected to travel by automobile in Tennessee

Tennessee.Source: AAA

some text AAA projects 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of 1 million travelers compared to last year and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007. (Source: AAA)

Travelers who plan to fly this Thanksgiving holiday are in luck, since a threatened multi-day strike by some 500 workers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was postponed until next Tuesday. Union officials said the workers want the public's support and didn't want to mess up people's travel plans.

"While we regret to see labor challenges occur at any airport, we do not anticipate the situation at O'Hare to affect holiday travelers," said Terry Hart, president of the Chattanooga Airport, which for several years has offered daily, nonstop flights to O'Hare on American Airlines and in September began offering them through United Airlines, too.

That said, driving, not flying, is the main way Thanksgiving travelers will get around.

Nationwide, 89 percent of all travelers will drive to their destinations, according to AAA, which estimates 48.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving,

Drivers are in luck, too. In most states, gas prices are the lowest they've been since 2008, AAA says.

Lane closures won't be a problem, either, since state transportation departments don't want construction to impede travelers.

"We'll just be out of people's way," said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Chattanooga office. TDOT will halt all construction-related lane closures from noon today through 6 a.m. Monday.

"We do it for every holiday, every holiday that's a big travel holiday. It's just standard operating procedure for us," Flynn said.

But drivers shouldn't push their luck — or the speed limit — this Thanksgiving, since efforts are in place to improve highway safety. That includes the I-40 Challenge, which has the goal of zero fatalities on the 455 miles of Interstate 40 in Tennessee.

That increases drivers' odds of getting a traffic ticket, because the Tennessee Highway Patrol will have troopers stationed every 20 miles on I-40 from today through Sunday, along with increased law enforcement on all highways.

And the roads will be busier this Thanksgiving. The 48.7 million Americans that AAA predicts will be on the road is an increase of 1 million from last year and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007. An estimated 1,086,352 people are expected to travel by automobile in Tennessee.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness, on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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