Airport and highway officials warning travelers to leave extra time for trips Thanksgiving holiday year's busiest for travel

November 23, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

With a record 259,000 travelers projected to pass through Baltimore-Washington International Airport over the Thanksgiving holidays, this is not the time to tune out that standard reminder: Leave ample time to get to the airport, park and check in.

"We're just seeing continued growth," said airport spokeswoman Marilyn Corbett. "Some people may be tempted to cut it close, but they need to allow enough time. They can't cut it close at Thanksgiving because everybody's going to be flying."

From the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the Monday after, airport officials expect to see 10 percent more travelers than the 236,000 who flew in and out last year. With an average 325 daily flights leaving BWI -- compared with the November 1997 figure of 314 -- Corbett said officials are expecting 48,000 travelers to pass through BWI on Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.

The numbers reflect the growth at BWI this year. With the June start-up of US Airways' discount Metrojet service and Southwest Airlines adding about 13 flights, 14.7 million passengers are expected to pass through the airport this year, 600,000 more than during 1997.

To prepare for the Thanksgiving rush, Corbett said travelers should plan to arrive at the airport 1 1/2 to two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. She said they also should call their airlines to confirm flight information before leaving for the airport.

On the upside, travelers will have more parking this year when they get to the airport -- 21,850 spaces, or 1,500 more than last Thanksgiving.

"I would really strongly encourage travelers to allow enough time because if they go to satellite parking, it's going to take them time to find a space," Corbett said.

She also urged travelers to consider taking light rail, a shuttle bus, taxi or limousine service to the airport instead of driving.

Corbett was not the only one offering travelers reminders. Valerie Burnette Edgar, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, said travelers should check their cars before leaving home for the airport to "make sure everything's in working order."

"The interstates are all going to be congested, and even one person stopped on the side of the road causes a lot of backup," Edgar said. "And make sure you bring maps in case you come across an accident or a backup and you have to find what detour to take. You'd be surprised how many people don't travel with maps."

Drivers with Internet access can check the Highway Administration Web site at http: //www. for live traffic camera shots of highways before leaving the house.

Edgar said no maintenance or construction work will be done on roads near the airport over Thanksgiving.

Maryland Transportation Authority police stationed at BWI also are leaving nothing to chance. Capt. William Downing, commander of authority police at BWI, said an extra five or six officers per shift will patrol the airport and direct traffic over Thanksgiving.

Downing pleaded with travelers not to leave their cars unattended outside the airport and not to clog drop-off lanes by double-parking.

"You'll have people parking next to the curb and that creates one row, then people come along and the first lane is taken so they park in the next lane, and soon you'll wind up with cars three or four rows deep, which backs traffic up," Downing said. "We're asking people to park in the parking facility, where the first half-hour is free, especially if you know when your party is coming in."

He also asked travelers not to leave valuables in their cars in the parking garage and emphasized: "Take your keys out of your vehicle. Some people who are in a rush forget and leave their keys in the ignition."

Corbett advised travelers to tune in BWI's radio channel, 1040-AM, for information on parking availability as they near the airport. They can call 1-800-GO-TO-BWI for general parking information.

Travelers can park in the gold overflow lot on Dorsey Road for $6 a day, the pink overflow lot on Route 170 for $6 a day, or the BWI Rail Station garage off Route 170 for $5 a day.

Satellite parking is $7 a day, with the seventh day free; short-term garage parking and Express Service Parking are $12 a day; and Park and Walk is $9 a day. Travelers parking in satellite lots and taking the shuttle bus to the terminal should allow at least 45 minutes.

Pub Date: 11/23/98

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