SALT LAKE CITY – Thanksgiving travel is officially underway and COVID-19 is making a huge impact on the way people are traveling this year.
According to AAA, 2.4 million people will travel by air across the country, which is a drop of nearly 50% compared to last year.
The number of people traveling by car is down about 5% compared to last year. AAA reports that 47.8 million will travel by auto and those traveling by bus, train or another way is down by 76%.
The Salt Lake City International Airport will see about 13,000 travelers, which is also about a 50% drop from 2019. That is also 3,000 more than the highest number of air passengers on a holiday since the pandemic.
According to spokesperson Nancy Volmer, the airport saw about 10,000 passengers on Labor Day.
"Traditionally, the days around Thanksgiving are the ones that would see some of the heaviest travel in the United States. But thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, travel will be a lot lighter this year."https://t.co/HgiDpqW2tJ via @businessinsider— AAA Travel (@AAA_Travel) November 16, 2020
For the Utah Department of Transportation, the biggest challenge was trying to predict just how many will be on the road this holiday.
"This year we are really not sure," said UDOT spokesperson Lisa Miller. "Last year UDOT was predicting up to half an hour travel delays at the peak times when most people would be leaving the Salt Lake Valley and coming back after the holiday weekend."
As a result, that could change the way UDOT sets signal delays for Black Friday to keep traffic moving smoothly.
Usually, they know what to expect year after year at certain busy intersections and set signals accordingly. But this year it will be more of a wait and see approach.
"We use the traffic signal timing as a pretty big component to that traffic management plan," said Miller. "So we do have traffic engineers that will be staffing our signal desk at the UDOT operation center all day on Friday."