The Thanksgiving travel rush is on, and back to levels not seen since before the pandemic.
An estimated 50 million Americans are hitting the road this week, and from the rails to the roads to the runways, it is set to be the highest single-year increase since 2005.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said around 5 million people are flying in or using their bridges and tunnels this week, but despite that eye-popping total, the busiest highway in the country is actually on Long Island.
AAA says during a four hour stretch on Wednesday, the Long Island Expressway has more traffic than anywhere in the country. Parts of the LIE were already at a crawl in the afternoon, with bumper-to-bumper traffic expected to drag on for hours.
Even on a good day, drivers refer to the much-traveled highway as "the parking lot," and with added holiday traffic, it gets even worse than usual.
An exasperated Bob Federici, who lives in Dix Hills and travels the LIE regularly for work, wasn’t surprised to hear the road being named the busiest road in America for the day before Thanksgiving.
"I believe it. I believe it and I can’t wait to get off it, to be honest with you because I have been traveling all morning," he told NBC New York.
Federici’s anguish was confirmed by traffic data from 10 major cities. A stretch of the eastbound LIE between Borden Avenue and Little Neck Parkway saw a 482 percent traffic increase in the afternoon — nearly all of which is the result of drivers heading out for the holiday.
"Coming from the city to the island is a nightmare as it is, and on a holiday it’s even worse," said Charlene Monetti, who lives in Woodbury.
AAA President Robert Sinclair said a record 90 percent of holiday travelers are driving this weekend, despite higher gas prices. The average tri-state price of $3.63 a gallon is the highest since 2013, up $1.50 from a year ago.
Joe Kronberg filled up at a gas station before leaving for the Hamptons Wednesday, taking no chances that LIE traffic could jeopardize his holiday meal.
"I have about 24 hours to be out there so I am going to give myself that lead time," he said. "Nowadays travel is always a big question mark, so the more time you give yourself, the better."