Holiday weekend traffic heavy but few major delays

Travelers faced crowded roads and airports Sunday at the tail end of the Thanksgiving holiday, but few encountered significant delays, transportation officials said.

Holiday-related congestion was heaviest on Interstate 95, particularly close to the Delaware border, and traffic was compounded by two NFL games in Washington and Baltimore, as well as a cruise from the Port of Baltimore. No major incidents had been reported by late afternoon.

At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, there were sporadic delays from cities including Dallas, Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Flights to Philadelphia and Atlanta also were reported as delayed on the airport board. But many BWI passengers said they had uneventful trips.

"It was smooth sailing," said Otis Tolbert of Herndon, Va., who was returning with his family from a visit with relatives near Little Rock, Ark. "No long lines at security."

Goucher College sophomore Kiera Sauter, from Peacham, Vt., also said her holiday flying experience went well, especially considering that she had to fly on crutches because she recently injured her knee. She said that before boarding her return flight from Burlington, Vt., she was stopped at the security gate and patted down. But she added that she was given a seat in the bulkhead row for more legroom.

Looking around at the expansive baggage area after arriving at BWI, where only one of the carousels was moving, she said, "I've heard it's normally crazy, but I got through pretty quickly."

Jonathan Dean, BWI spokesman, said the airline check-in and security lines were moving efficiently throughout the day and there were no major backups in the parking areas. Some 40,000 people were expected to depart from the airport Sunday, and a similar number were expected to arrive. That's about the same number as a busy summer day, Dean said.

The airport was "busy as a beehive, but travelers continue to move swiftly," Dean said mid-afternoon.

Around the nation, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that no major airports were experiencing significant delays, though some smaller airports were backed up. Southwest Airlines, which is responsible for more than half the flights at BWI, also reported that its flights were running well locally and across the nation.

"So far, our load factors are heavy, as predicted," Paul Flaningan, a Southwest spokesman, said in the late afternoon. "But everything is running smoothly."

Amtrak also reported that trains in the Northeast corridor moved mostly on schedule throughout the day.

In all, AAA Mid-Atlantic expected nearly 850,000 Marylanders to travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday weekend, an 11.8 percent increase from last year. About 95 percent were expected to drive, the automobile club said.

A State Highway Administration official said drivers would face increasing traffic throughout the day.

"Things are rolling along fairly steadily now," Kellie Boulware, a highway spokeswoman said early in the day. "There are no major incidents. But we expect, as the day goes on, based on what we've seen in the past, more people will be heading back home later in the day and we'll see an increase in traffic."

Baltimore Sun reporter Joe Burris contributed to this article.

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