Those who are hitting the road for Thanksgiving this year will find gas prices that are about 30 cents more per gallon on average than last year, but that isn’t likely to keep many people home.
More than 1.4 million North Carolinians are expected to travel for the holiday, a record, according to AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association. AAA says about 90 percent of them will do it by highway.
If they’re gassing up, they can expect to pay an average of about $2.39 for a gallon of regular unleaded in North Carolina, according to AAA. The cheapest gas in the state is in Fayetteville, where regular unleaded was a full dime less expensive per gallon. The priciest gas is in the Asheville area, at $2.46.
Gas prices in the state shot up in the days after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in late August, shutting down refineries and other facilities that provide fuel to the region. Prices have receded some since their post-Harvey peak but remain about 20 cents per gallon higher than before the storm.
AAA credits relatively strong demand and falling inventories with causing a nationwide spike of 9 cents per gallon in less than two weeks in early November. The organization said it expected demand would subside as the month went on, and prices have fallen a couple of cents a gallon nationwide in the past week.
If you’re leaving the state, you’ll find cheaper gas in North Carolina’s neighbors. The average price per gallon Monday was about $2.31 in Virginia and Tennessee and $2.27 in South Carolina.
The state Department of Transportation suspends road construction over the holiday and tries to roll back barrels to open lanes where possible.
One place that isn’t possible is on the northern most stretch of Interstate 85, which will remain squeezed to one lane in each direction for more than 20 miles between the U.S. 158 exit in Henderson and the Virginia state line. Travelers can expect delays, particularly if there’s an accident in the work zone, where clearing wrecked vehicles is difficult. If you’re headed into Virginia, you might find Interstate 95 a better way to go.
For an updated status on highways, including accidents, go to tims.ncdot.gov/TIMS/ or follow NCDOT on Twitter. For information on travel conditions up and down I-95, go to i95coalition.org/trafficview.
Troopers on I-40
You may notice more State Highway Patrol troopers on Interstate 40 on the two busiest travel days, Wednesday and Sunday. The Highway Patrol is taking part in the I-40 Thanksgiving Challenge, when law enforcement agencies in eight states push for zero fatal accidents along the 2,555 miles of I-40, which runs from Wilmington to Barstow, Calif.
There will be troopers stationed every 20 miles along the 424-mile length of I-40 in the state from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Last year, there were no fatal accidents along I-40 in the state during the two-day campaign.
Busy times at RDU
More than 200,000 people are expected to travel through Raleigh-Durham International Airport the week of Thanksgiving, about 6 percent more than last year. Sunday is expected to be the busiest day, with more than 38,000 passengers moving through the terminals, which would be an all-time record, according to RDU spokeswoman Kristie VanAuken.
The two busiest times will be Wednesday from 4 to 8 a.m. and Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. But whenever you’re flying, VanAuken recommends passengers give themselves about two hours to park, get through security and get to their gate.
RDU has created a holiday travel guide with information about parking, passenger pickup, flight status and the airport’s cellphone lot. It can be found at www.rdu.com/holidays
Let your dog stretch his legs
If you’ve got your dog with you on I-95, you might consider stopping in Roanoke Rapids, at Exit 173, where the Halifax County Visitors Center has a dog run amid all the restaurants and stores. The fenced-in area, which gets 4 1/2 stars on Yelp, has a set of common-sense rules, starting with, “No dogs without people. No people without dogs.” Open daily sunrise to sunset.