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Thanksgiving travel: Cheap gas, more airport parking, but possible weather issues

Cheaper gas and an improved economy will help send 1.8 million Carolinas residents traveling 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday, an increase of more than 4 percent over a year ago.

Road crews will halt construction project, and a new parking deck has added 4,000 spaces at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

But there could be problems. Travelers will still be dealing with construction at the airport. And those hitting the road could be facing a major East Coast storm system Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year. Here is what to look for you’re hitting the road.

Weather

This could be the biggest problem for travelers. A storm system is expected to sweep up the East Coast from late Tuesday into Thursday, and it could have a major impact on road and air travel. Watch charlotteobserver.com for developments. It appears as if those traveling Wednesday will need to allow extra time. Conditions should be much better to the west of Charlotte and in the Great Lakes.

Airport

The extra parking spaces should be a big improvement over last year, when the deck was under construction and parking was tight.

Almost 93,000 Carolinas residents will fly this holiday week, according to AAA Carolinas, with about 30 percent of them using Charlotte’s airport. The busiest days are expected to be Monday and Dec. 1, but Tuesday and Wednesday also will be hectic. Air fares are up about 1 percent over a year ago.

Stay up to date on parking and airport conditions on Twitter ( @CLTAirport) or online at www.newsroom.cltairport.com.

Highway travel

Construction projects shouldn’t be a problem, as the transportation departments in the Carolinas plan to suspend road work from Wednesday through Sunday. Get up-to-date road information in North Carolina from www.ncdot.org or in South Carolina from www.scdot.org/getting/traveladvisories.aspx. Twitter alerts in North Carolina are at @NCDOT. For South Carolina Twitter alerts, check www.511sc.org.

Police patrols

Expect plenty of law enforcement company. Nearly 600 drivers were arrested on DWI charges in North Carolina in the few days leading to Halloween, and patrols will be much more intense for Thanksgiving, officials said. The N.C. Highway Patrol and the S.C. Highway Patrol each have announced crackdowns on drunk driving this week.

A sobering reminder: Twelve North Carolina motorists and five in South Carolina died in vehicle wrecks last Thanksgiving holiday.

Bus, train

AAA Carolinas said more than 40,000 Carolinas residents will travel by bus or train. Amtrak ( www.amtrak.com) said it will operate at maximum capacity this week. Greyhound ( www.greyhound.com) said it expects to have available seats.

Gas prices

A gallon of regular gas is selling this week in North Carolina for an average of $2.77, down 46 cents from last Thanksgiving and 58 cents lower than Labor Day. South Carolina’s average price of $2.59 is among the lowest in the country. Travelers will find good prices no matter where they go, but they should consider filling up in South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee, which have the lowest prices.

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