18.9M Tollway drivers, 4.6M airport passengers expected over holidays

CHICAGO (STMW) - The year 2015 will go out with a bang for Chicago-area travelers as about 18.9 million drivers are expected to hit the Illinois Tollway system and 4.6 million passengers are expected to pass through the city’s airports for their winter holiday travels.

Tuesday’s mix of regular commuter traffic and holiday migration had it pegged as the busiest single-day of travel between Dec. 21 and Jan. 3, with nearly 1.7 million sets of tires meeting pavement, according to a statement from the tollway.

The average day will see about 1.5 million vehicles on the road during the yuletide period. It’s an uptick of almost 6 percent over the same time last year, officials said.

To help ease congestion, most construction and lane closures will be put on hold for the holiday. Weary travelers can also stop at tollway oases for a little pick-me-up with free cups of coffee on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

“We want our customers to be safe as they travel the Tollway this holiday season,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov said in a statement. “Before they dash off to enjoy holiday festivities with family and friends, drivers should put away their cellphones or other distractions and make sure everyone in their vehicle is buckled up properly.”

In addition to the increased traffic on the roadways, Chicago’s airports are expecting to see more than 4.6 million passengers during the holiday period.

More than 3.5 million passengers – an 8 percent increase from last year – will have passed through O’Hare International Airport between Dec. 19 and Jan. 5, according to a statement from the Chicago Department of Aviation. Midway International Airport is expected to see more than 1.1 million passengers over the same period, a 1.5 percent increase from last year.

Sunday, Dec. 20 is projected to be O’Hare’s busiest day with a total of 222,000 passengers, the aviation department said. Wednesday is expected to be Midway’s busiest day with more than 68,000 anticipated passengers.

Travelers are encouraged to arrive at the airports two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

Metra will also adjust its train schedules and offer additional travel passes over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Certain lines will have more trains in the afternoon Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 30-31, according to a statement from Metra. Some lines will also have an extra train after midnight or the last scheduled departure.

An unlimited 2-day, $8 pass will be available for riders Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1, according to Metra. Trains will run on a Sunday schedule for both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Riders should refer to Metra’s website for additional information.

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