Friday predicted to be busiest travel day in Chicagoland area for Memorial Day weekend

As the long holiday weekend approaches, the roads in the Chicagoland area are expected to be busy with eager travelers.

Friday is projected to be the busiest travel day, according to a sergeant with the Indiana State Police.

AAA estimates that 44 million people nationwide will embark on road trips of 50 miles or more this weekend. If accurate, this would mark the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume since the auto club began tracking it.

"Morning is good, afternoon is bad," said Sara Kopit, the editor-in-chief at Skift, a travel industry news site. "If you are trying to get anywhere after 4 p.m. anytime this weekend…the afternoons are going to be really, really awful."

In Illinois, over 1.8 million people are anticipated to travel, while in Indiana, about 900,000 residents are expected to leave town.

Along with crowded highways, airports will also see increased activity. AAA predicts that more than 3.5 million people in the U.S. will travel by plane during the holiday period.

Sergeant Glen Fifield, of the Indiana State Police, issued a reminder to the public about the dangers of drinking and driving. In 2023, troopers made more than 700 arrests for impaired driving, a significant increase compared to the numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During Covid, the number went down and after Covid, it just skyrocketed. You know, we had two troopers last year that had over 110 DUIs each. So the 702 troopers had, 200, and I think it was 225 between the two – those two troopers. Our troopers are busy with impaired driving and it's definitely a problem," Fifield said.

He said traffic on I-65 between Chicago and Indianapolis will really pick up on Sunday due to the Indy 500, pending a rainy forecast.

"I know they really, really want to get that race in, but, yeah, typically in the evenings, 65 northbound is pretty gridlocked. Southbound, not so much because everybody's coming from Indianapolis and the race," said Sgt. Fifield.

Travelers are advised to plan for extra travel time due to the expected congestion.