Weather, roadwork add up to good forecast for holiday commuters

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - The forecast for holiday travelers is encouraging, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

All signs point to acceptable road conditions for Chicagoans who plan to travel over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Though some roadblocks are inevitable — work on the Jane Byrne Interchange will continue, for example — other lane closures “will be lifted wherever possible,” said Gianna Urgo, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

For instance, Illinois Tollway officials announced last week that more lanes were being opened on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway as work wraps up on the $2.5 billion project to rebuild and widen that highway.

Additionally, the National Weather Service forecast for the rest of the week has just a little rain in it, and Thanksgiving itself is expected to be partly sunny. High temperatures will be in the 40s through Sunday.

Still, Priscilla Tobias, director of IDOT’s office of program development, is urging commuters to remain cautious.

“The holiday season is the busiest travel season,” Tobias said, “you’re also at a higher risk for being in a crash.”

There have been 974 traffic fatalities in Illinois this year through November 20, up roughly 10 percent from 2015’s 868. IDOT surveys also show that seat belt use by Illinois drivers in 2016 has decreased slightly, from 95.2 percent last year to 93 percent this year. That has Tobias worried.

“The major contributing factor in vehicular fatalities is lack of seatbelt usage,” Tobias said. “We have people getting ejected [from their cars] in crashes that could have been preventable.”

The Chicago Police Department announced they would have hundreds of extra officers on patrol, and would seatbelt and DUI checkpoints in place through Sunday. That day-and-night effort is an attempt to prevent Illinois’ traffic fatality numbers from reaching their highest in seven years.

State Police Capt. David Byrd says the increased enforcement will not slow down travelers who are obeying the law.

“We’ll have mobile patrols, some traffic stops,” Byrd said. “It shouldn’t slow anybody down too much.”

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