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Holiday Travel Brings Traffic Headaches; When And Where To Avoid Worst Congestion

SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- AAA says more than 53 million people are expected to travel this Thanksgiving.

So when are the best and worst times to hit the road?

CBS2's Leah Mishkin spoke with people Wednesday morning at the Alexander Hamilton rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus.

Jane Torcia and her family of five were out the door at 5:30 a.m. to drive from Connecticut to Maryland to be with family.

"We have about six DVDs in there. 'Moana' has been on repeat, and snacks, lots of snacks," she told Mishkin.

Traffic was light Wednesday morning, but built through the day. AAA's Robert Sinclair says from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. is expected to be the worst time to hit the road.

"You combine commuters with those trying to get away for the holiday on Wednesday afternoon, and it's going to be very crowded indeed," he said.

He said the eastbound Long Island Expressway will experience a 482% increase in traffic between Borden Avenue and Little Neck Parkway. Major jams are also expected on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and Belt Parkway.

"Everybody knows the day before Thanksgiving, it's the day the roads are full, when the airports are full, the trains are full and the MTA is ready -- the subways, the buses, the commuter railroads," MTA Acting Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said.

There were long lines during the early afternoon at Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station.

"Overall, we're at about 70% of our ridership, compared to fiscal year 2019, and this week we're at about 80%, looking at about 800,000 riders across the country," Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams said.

Back at the rest stops on the Turnpike, Jeff Stein was driving to Maryland with his wife and kids to get to his parents' house. They weren't able to be together last Thanksgiving because of the pandemic, and he's been craving his mom's gravy.

"We left early to beat the traffic," he said. "Everybody is going to be back together."

Mishkin stopped David Rocha at a rest stop outside the Lincoln Tunnel. He said he was making the 11-hour trip with his wife and son from Rhode Island to North Carolina to get to his in-laws.

"With prices being so high in plane tickets," he said. "The pump is high also."

This comes as gas prices are hitting a seven-year high amid soaring inflation. Still, AAA says 90% of Thanksgiving travelers are driving this year.

President Joe Biden announced plans to cut fuel costs Tuesday by tapping into the country's strategic reserves. Fifty million barrels of oil will be gradually released.

"I'll do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump," he said.

AAA says drivers should leave after 9 p.m. Wednesday or before 11 a.m. Thursday.

To help ease the expected congestion on the Long Island Expressway, the Long Island Rail Road is adding to its eastbound service. For more on that and other MTA service changes, CLICK HERE.

CBS2's Ali Bauman contributed to this report.

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