Utah highway officials have a gift for drivers this Thanksgiving week.
"This is the first time in several years that we haven't had a major construction project that would affect Thanksgiving travel. It gives drivers a little something extra to be thankful for this year," said Tania Mashburn, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Transportation.
For nearly three years, the biggest obstacle has been the massive $1.1 billion reconstruction of Interstate 15 in Utah County which some years led to two hours of delay. While its formal completion is not scheduled until next month, all its lanes were opened early a few weeks ago.
That 26-mile stretch between Lehi and Spanish Fork rebuilt 10 freeway interchanges and replaced or modified 63 bridges. Crews used 2.6 million square yards of concrete, which could pave a sidewalk from coast to coast.
Lack of any major construction projects may not mean a total lack of holiday congestion, however. The AAA travel services company says its surveys estimate that 2.8 million Mountain West residents will travel50 miles or more on highways this week.
That is up 0.5 percent from last year, and is the fourth consecutive increase for Thanksgiving travel during tough economic times.
"After several years of economic uncertainty, Mountain West residents are well-versed in budgeting so they can gather with family and friends to celebrate holidays together," said AAA Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough.
AAA Utah projects that a typical Mountain West family of four will travel an average of 607 miles over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and spend $569.
Shoppers on Black Friday after Thanksgiving will find fewer buses and trains available than on a normal workday.
TRAX and Utah Transit Authority buses will operate on a modified Sunday schedule with some extra late service, said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
FrontRunner will operate on a Saturday schedule. Information on schedules is available online at rideuta.com.
To check UDOT's website for possible congestion or incident advisories for motorists, go to www.utahcommuterlink.com.