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Freeway construction and Thanksgiving travel woes

Posted at 12:52 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 13:52:42-05

RACINE -- A record number of drivers will be hitting the road the day before Thanksgiving. AAA says of the more than 54 million travelers, 89 percent will be driving 50 miles or more. 

Some people in Racine County wanted to get a jump on things before the sun came up. 

"I want to get it out of the way now," Kelly Gropp of Greenfield said. "It's going to be chaotic the next two days."

Gropp wanted to fill her tank before the price gets higher. AAA says gas is about 30 cents per gallon higher than this time last year. 

"Just doing some early morning errands and want to get it done and out of the way before the holidays come," Gropp said. 

She'll be staying local but for many drivers, they are hitting the road for the long haul. Several drivers at a gas station in Sturtevant were heading long distances. One man is driving straight through to Georgia, another family is heading north from Tennessee.

The one thing they'll all encounter is construction that many will be seeing for the first time. Especially on I-94.

"We are expecting a lot of people to be driving through that work zone who are not familiar with it," Michael Pyritz, Regional Communications Manager for Wisconsin DOT, SE Region said.

"We are asking people who drive it every day and are familiar with it, slow down. Take it easy. Bring extra patience. There are going to be a lot of people in there surprised with the length of the work zone and just how narrow the lanes are and everything. Rather than have something occur, take it easy. People will get through fine."

The I-94 freeway project is still in two by two configuration. Pyritz says it fills up quickly so if an incident occurs, drivers will have to make quick choices and there is limited access in and out. 

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

"By the end of December, that entire eleven mile stretch of construction will be three lanes," Pyritz said. "The two by two configuration will be a thing of the past. We will not have to go back."

But the early risers got the advantage of less traffic on this busy driving day. 

"Traffic is moving great, even with construction," Jessica Hornsten of Evanstan, Ill. said. "My GPS shaved an hour off our commute time."

Hornsten is headed up north to be with family. She wanted to get an early jump to spend as much time with them as possible. 

"I really want to be with my parents for Thanksgiving," Hornsten said. "Seemed like a good day to do it. We can get there and do some cooking and spend some time together."