Hudson Valley holiday season kicks off; travelers head for roads, airports

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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The holiday travel season kicked off Friday in the Hudson Valley with some bumps, as wet weather caused delays on the roads and airports. However, that will not deter the millions who are expected to leave their homes over the next 10 days and make their way to destinations near and far.

More than 93 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home over the next 10 days, up from 91.8 million last year, the American Automobile Association said. Ninety percent of those voyagers will be traveling by car.

Nationwide, more than 5.6 million people were expected to travel by air this holiday season, a 26 percent increase over last year, the AAA said. Specifically, more than two million passengers are expected to pass through Kennedy Airport, one million through LaGuardia Airport, and 15,700 through Stewart International Airport over the course of the last two weeks of December, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"Primary economic indicators all show modest improvement from last year and AAA is projecting an increase in the number of Americans stuffing their stockings with airline tickets and hotel reservations," AAA president Robert Darbelnet said.

INCREASED ROAD ENFORCEMENT

With most holiday travelers expected to hit the roads, New York State Police will step up speed and drunken driving enforcement efforts throughout the rest of the year.

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"During the holiday season, we're moving people from support roles to enforcement details to have the maximum presence out there," said Major Michael Kopy the commander of Troop K, which covers Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, and Columbia counties.

State Police will concentrate speed enforcement details in some of the most accident-prone areas of the region, according to Kopy.

And at night, State Police will conduct "saturation" coverage in tandem with local police departments near areas with high concentrations of bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

"DWI enforcement will be aggressive," Kopy said. "We're advising people strongly, if you're going to drink, designate a driver."

AIRPORT DELAYS ON FIRST DAY OF HOLIDAY TRAVEL

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A blizzard that pounded the Midwest combined with rainy, windy weather in the Hudson Valley to cause hours-long delays at area airports Friday morning.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, the nation's second-busiest hub. Meanwhile, there were delays at LaGuardia throughout the day due to strong winds, but at Kennedy, most flights were close to normal by midday, according to airport officials.

Officials are keeping a watch on Christmas Eve snow in the Hudson Valley that could also result in travel delays.

INCREASE METRO-NORTH SERVICE

On the rails, more trains will be available to travelers during the holiday season, according to Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority increased departures early Friday afternoon, adding "getaway" trains between 1 p.m. and 4:10 p.m., the agency said in a statement.

Metro-North's regular weekend schedule will be in effect on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday, the railroad will run on a Saturday schedule. On Christmas Day, there will be hourly service on the mainlines, and weekend service on the branch lines.

There will be increased Metro-North service in the late morning in the three weekdays following Christmas.

Then on New Year's Eve, a Saturday schedule will be in effect, but Metro-North will add extra service to Grand Central in the morning and afternoon, as well as trips out of the city after midnight.

On New Year's Day, hourly service will be offered on the mainlines, with regular weekend service on the branch lines, the MTA said.

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With The Associated Press

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