Highways, airports get back to normal after busy travel day

Westbound traffic faces delays toward the Tappan Zee Westbound traffic faces delays toward the Tappan Zee Bridge on I-87 in Tarrytown. (Nov. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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Hudson Valley residents found coming home a challenge from a long Thanksgiving weekend as roads were clogged and flights were delayed Sunday.

"I've had people tell me they were returning from Washington, D.C., and it was bumper to bumper all the way," said Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for AAA New York.

Heavy air traffic delayed inbound flights to Westchester County Airport in White Plains by an average of almost two hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Windy conditions at Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport delayed arriving flights by up to 30 minutes on average. But the waits had been reduced to 15 minutes or less at all local airports by 9 p.m.

Road traffic became congested Sunday afternoon as drivers headed home after visiting friends and relatives. Traffic was backed up on the New York State Thruway southbound onto the Tappan Zee Bridge, and the state Transportation Department reported delays on Interstate 95 northbound between White Plains and Pelham Parkway.

Most Hudson Valley highways were flowing freely again by 9 p.m.

More than a third of Thanksgiving travelers were expected to return home Sunday, according to the IHS Global Insight/AAA Thanksgiving 2012 Forecast. An additional 25 percent of travelers will return home on Monday, according to a poll conducted for the report.

Americans get relatively few vacation days, making them eager to travel on a four-day weekend, Sinclair said.

"Americans get the fewest number of vacation days of any workers in the industrialized world," he said.

Metro-North reported normal service. The railroad was adding Sunday "shoppers' specials" trains on the New Haven and Harlem line through Christmas. The Hudson line will add trains as well, but only on Saturdays. The New Jersey Turnpike reported no serious congestion. And the Connecticut Department of Transportation reported only light congestion around Stamford.

AAA projected that 43.6 million Americans will have traveled 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving weekend. That's the fourth consecutive year of decreases, with a total 25 percent loss of travelers compared to 2008.

Around 3.14 million people will have traveled for the holiday by air, a decline of around 120,000 from last year, the AAA report said.

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