(SUN TIMES MEDIA WIRE) - Nearly two million people are expected to travel in Illinois over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, despite long security lines at airports and a stormy weather forecast.
The bad news for travelers and barbecue-goers over the holiday—most of the weekend is expected to be hot and humid, with several chances for showers and thunderstorms.
Friday is expected to see a high of 83 degrees with a 50 percent chance of showers and storms, the National Weather Service forecasts. Friday night, showers are likely and a thunderstorm is also possible.
Saturday is expected to be about 80 degrees with a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms; and Sunday will be partly sunny with a high near 82 and another chance for storms.
Memorial Day will be mostly sunny with a high near 79, according to the weather service, and there will be a slight chance for storms again Tuesday.
Travelers should arrive at the airport at least two or three hours before their flight due to expected long security lines authorities advised. The Chicago Department of Aviation anticipates about 1.7 million total travelers heading through Midway and O’Hare between Thursday and Tuesday.
Following weeks of much-maligned delays at TSA security checkpoints, the mayor’s office released a report Friday saying average wait times were down to 8 minutes at O’Hare and 9 minutes at Midway, with peak wait times of 42 and 44 minutes, respectively. The number of TSA officers has been bumped up to 1,400 at O’Hare and 303 at Midway, officials said.
The CDA expects 1.3 million people to pass through O’Hare, about the same volume as last year, with its busiest day on Tuesday with nearly 250,000 passengers projected to head through the airport, the CDA said in a statement.
Midway is expected to see a four percent increase in passengers with a projected 393,000 people headed to the airport. Its busiest day will likely be Friday with more than 74,000 passengers, the CDA said.
Despite the inclement weather forecast, AAA projects that 1.9 million people will travel in Illinois between Thursday and Monday, a slight increase from last year. About 1.7 million of those people will be driving.
“Millions of Americans are eager to kick off the unofficial start of the summer travel season by taking a Memorial Day getaway,” AAA President Joe Richardson said in a statement.
“We are forecasting an increase in holiday travelers for the second consecutive year, and the most in 11 years, largely due to low gas prices, a growing labor market, and rising personal incomes. If these factors continue, the travel industry should enjoy a booming summer season,” Richardson said.
Gas prices in Illinois are averaging $2.36 per gallon, down from $2.78 last year, according to AAA. In Indiana, gas prices are even lower, at $2.28 per gallon.
The Illinois Tollway expects to see nearly 7.6 million vehicles criss-crossing its system between Friday and Tuesday, with the busiest day expected to be Friday.
To help keep traffic flowing, non-emergency road work and construction will be put on hold from 3 p.m. Friday through midnight into Tuesday, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
IDOT warns all those drivers to be safe over the holiday weekend. An increased number of patrols will be cracking down on seat belt law violators and impaired drivers 24/7, with a focus on late-night hours. Last year over the Memorial Day weekend, 13 people died in 12 crashes in Illinois.
“Although we’ve seen a decline in the number of traffic fatalities in Illinois over the Memorial Day weekend, one death is one too many,” Secretary of State Jesse White said in a statement. “Let’s keep the roads safe by not drinking and driving.”
In Chicago, CTA bus riders should be on the lookout for additional service and detours around Memorial Day weekend events.
There will be extra service on the No. 130 Museum Campus and No. 144 Inner Drive/Michigan Express routes about an hour after the Beyoncé concerts at Soldier Field on Friday and Saturday, according to the CTA. People can also take the Red, Orange and Green line trains from Roosevelt station, a few blocks west of the stadium.
Starting in the morning on Saturday, State Street and all of its cross street between Wacker Drive and Van Buren Street will be closed for the Memorial Day Parade until the afternoon. Bus routes on and around State will be rerouted to adjacent streets, according to the CTA.
Museum Campus Drive will be closed from Waldron to McFetridge and Solidarity Drive from the early morning until the afternoon on Saturday for the Fleet Feet Sports Soldier Field 10 Mile Race. Bus routes No. 130 Museum Campus and No. 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express will be rerouted to adjacent streets, according to the CTA.
On Sunday, Lake Shore Drive between Bryn Mawr and 57th Street will be closed from 5 a.m. until 11 a.m. for the annual Bike The Drive event, according to the CTA and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Detours will direct motorists to and from the Stevenson Expressway and buses along Lake Shore Drive will be rerouted.
Many other travelers—about 95,000 Illinoisans—will be flying to their holiday destination, according to AAA.