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Thanksgiving traffic down a tad on WV Turnpike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanksgiving holiday traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike was down slightly from last year, Parkways Authority general manager Greg Barr said Monday.

Barr said tollbooth transactions for the six-day period between Tuesday and Sunday were down about 1.5 percent compared to 2011.

"It's about 11,000 transactions less than last year," Barr said. 

Between Tuesday and Sunday, tollbooths along the 88-mile corridor between Charleston and Princeton processed about 724,000 transactions. Over the same period last year, toll operators completed 735,000 transactions.

National travel firm AAA had forecast a 0.7 percent increase in nationwide holiday travel this year. AAA cited flat gas prices and a slight improvement in the nation's economy as factors behind the slight increase.

Barr said he wasn't surprised that the AAA forecast didn't match the local results.

"It's hard to predict, sometimes," he said.

The all-time high for Thanksgiving week traffic occurred in 2009, when tollbooths recorded 772,000 transactions.

Barr said it was curious traffic peaked that year because of two factors: The recession that hit the economy that year, and the fact that 2009 was the first year Thanksgiving travelers paid the increased $2 Turnpike toll rate.

Both would typically be seen as factors that would lead to a decrease in Turnpike travel.

Barr said the good news about this travel year was that there were no major accidents or traffic problems on the Turnpike over the holiday weekend.

"It was a very safe holiday for the Turnpike," he said. "We were very pleased with the safe nature of the travel period."

Parkways Authority officials scheduled extra workers to staff toll booths over the weekend. With increased holiday traffic, workers manned the extra "tandem" tollbooths on each toll lane.

The extra tandem tollbooths allow more traffic per hour to flow through toll lanes.

"Between the 1 and 4 p.m. hours (on Sunday), traffic was really pounding," Barr said.

"We have five lanes open and each collector can process 400 vehicles an hour and you've got 2300 vehicles per hour coming at you -- that's where those tandem tollbooths make a difference," he said.

"Then you're able to do 2,350 or 2,400 transactions an hour, instead of just 2,000," he said. "That's what keeps traffic from backing up that bad."

The Parkways Authority had projected about a 1 percent increase in toll transactions for the current budget year.

Turnpike transactions since January 1 are up 1.7 percent compared to 2011. While traffic numbers have been down recently, Barr said the authority should finish this year within its expectations. Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.Follow him at www.Twitter.com/JaredWV.


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