By Johnny Jackson
The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to suspend construction-related lane closures on all interstates and major state routes, beginning at noon today, and lasting until 5 a.m., on Monday, Dec. 29.
Officials said Monday, however, that incident management or emergency maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary on any route.
The department is advising motorists to expect delays, plan ahead and be extra patient and cautious during the holiday season. Between Dec. 21 and 28 of 2007, the state reported 18 fatalities on Georgia roads.
"It is always tragic to lose a loved one, but it is particularly difficult during the holidays," said Georgia DOT Commissioner Gena Evans. "We want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday."
According to West Central District Engineer Thomas Howell, traffic congestion is likely to increase leading up to Christmas Day, Dec. 25.
"With Christmas Day falling so close to a weekend," Howell said, "we expect many families to drive to their destinations, which could result in heavier-than-usual congestion on most state routes and interstates."
Those areas include the Southbound corridor of Interstate 75 through Clayton and Henry counties. The reverse may be true following the holidays as well, with Northbound traffic along the I-75 corridor.
Despite the anemic economy, 63.9 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Christmas holiday period, a decrease of only 2.1 percent from last year's total of 65.3 million.
According to AAA Auto Club South, nearly one in four people living in the Southeast intend to travel during the Christmas-to-New Year's holiday season, a slight increase (0.2 percent) from 2007.
About 82 percent of all holiday travelers intend to drive. The Southeast is expected to see the most overall Christmas travel, as 18 million (28 percent) of the nation's 63.9 million holiday travelers will begin their trips from their homes in the Southeast.
The Southeast has experienced an 8 percent decrease from the number of air travelers last year, as the number of Americans choosing to travel by train or bus increased by nearly a percentage point.
AAA Auto Club South projects that only about 505,000 Georgians are expected to travel by air within the coming days, compared to the 1.4 million who will travel by passenger car, bus, or train.
Travelers can check www.georgia-navigator.com for current road conditions, or call 511 on any phone, free of charge, for real-time traffic information. Traveler information is also available at www.511ga.org, or at the toll-free number for out-of-state callers 1-877-MYGA511 (1-877-694-2511).
Georgia 511 provides statewide traffic conditions, route-specific information and estimated travel times within metro Atlanta. Additionally, 511 callers can access transit providers, major airports, ride-share organizations, Georgia tourism information and 511 systems in neighboring states.
For those preparing to fly, 511 connects callers to airports in Atlanta and Savannah for information on parking, delays or connections to carriers. An automated voice-recognition system guides the service, but callers can also reach live operators to report accidents or congestion, request HERO assistance or obtain additional information.
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