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Fewer holiday travelers expected

Travelers on Wisconsin's highways going over the river and through the woods for the Thanksgiving holiday week won't have as much company as in years past, according to officials with AAA Wisconsin.

"Because of the economic hardships of our country, Americans as a whole are cutting back where ever they are able, and travel is one of those areas," said Tom Frymark, AAA Wisconsin regional president.

Across the nation AAA expects to see a small decline in Thanksgiving holiday travelers.

AAA officials say approximately 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this coming weekend, a drop of about 1.4 percent from last year.

In the Great Lakes region that decrease is expected to be about 0.9 percent, according to AAA officials.

"With current low gasoline prices and the desire to be with family over the holidays, people might just fight through this economic hardship to enjoy their family's traditions," Frymark said.

Gas prices are significantly lower across Wisconsin from last year according to AAA's Gas Gauge.

As of Monday morning the average price for a gallon of gas in Wisconsin was $1.87. Last year that price was $3.13. In Minnesota the average was $1.74 and the national average was $1.90.

Officials with the Wisconsin State Patrol expect traffic to be heavy on Wednesday as families head out for Thanksgiving destinations.

However, the heaviest travel day is expected to be Sunday as both holiday travelers and deer hunters head home.

"No matter when you travel, especially during the next week to 10 days, give yourself enough time so you're not rushed," said Maj. Dan Lonsdorf, of the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Safety.

Lonsdorf suggested that drivers give themselves an extra five or 10 minutes of travel time so they can arrive rested and relaxed.

He also stressed that drivers should be well rested before getting behind the wheel.

"With fewer daylight hours this time of year, motorists will need to stay sharp and focused on the task at hand to ensure that everyone makes it home safely," Lonsdorf said.

He added that the Wisconsin State Patrol and other law enforcement will be watching for unsafe driving behaviors like speeding and impaired driving.

According to Lonsdorf, traffic accidents claimed 16 lives in Wisconsin during last year's Thanksgiving holiday season -- the deadliest since 1989.

Travelers on Wisconsin highways won't just be finding fewer cars, they'll also be seeing few orange barrels.

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation say that as deer hunters and holiday travelers hit the roads the construction season is ending.

"This time of year most of our construction projects are wrapping up for the season, so travelers will see fewer work zones as they head to the north woods or to grandma's house," said Don Greuel of DOT's Bureau of Project Development.

Greuel added that most of the orange barrels won't be back until spring.

The state's biggest road construction project - the Marquette interchange in downtown Milwaukee - was completed earlier this year.