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How's the holiday traffic? Take a look for yourself

By Karin Crompton

Publication: The Day

Published November 25. 2009 4:00AM   Updated November 25. 2009 1:55PM
AP Photo/Mike Fuentes
Anthony Everett prepares to pass through security at Dallas Fort Worth airport in Dallas on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009.
Online map connected to state DOT cameras along major highways

Today is "National Drive to Your Grandma's House Day."

Or, as AAA puts it: "With the holiday's focus on family and the extended weekend most Americans enjoy, traveling on Thanksgiving has become entrenched in the American psyche."

The organization predicts that 38.4 million travelers will take to the roads, airways and rails between today and Sunday, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year.

Starting today, you can peek at how many of them are driving on Interstate 95 or 395 by going to www.theday.com/trafficcams, where you'll find an interactive map that links to every state Department of Transportation traffic camera along those two highways.

The state DOT broadcasts a live feed showing traffic conditions from around the state. The department monitors the cameras to alert drivers to heavy traffic or accidents but doesn't keep a recording of the feeds.

"They're probably the most popular feature on the DOT's Web site," spokesman Kevin Nursick said. "When there's an issue with traffic cameras, a technical issue where the cameras aren't working properly, we hear about it immediately. The public is very much in tune to the traffic cameras."

Nursick said people go to the site looking for real-time travel information to determine whether there may be heavy traffic or an incident. About 11,000 people have also signed up for the DOT's e-alert system that lets them know of incidents, he said.

The agency is working to make the cameras work better with mobile devices like BlackBerries, though Nursick was quick to remind drivers not to surf the Internet while driving.

There are 19 cameras in this region, starting at Exit 66 along I-95 in Old Saybrook and continuing to Exit 86 at the Gold Star Highway in Groton. Traveling I-395, they begin at the Montville rest area and end at Exit 81 in Norwich (a somewhat blurry picture).

According to the DOT's Web site, the traffic camera images are updated every five minutes and users must have Javascript to view the pages.

The DOT says it supplies the images for Interstates 84 and 91 and Route 2, while it partners with TrafficLand Inc. to show images for I-95 and the shoreline/Norwich areas.

All of the cameras belong to the DOT, but the images from TrafficLand are of streaming video about every half-second, while the other cameras show still images.

MORE

From the AAA:

• AAA and IHS Global predict that 38.4 million domestic travelers will take to the roads, airways and rails this Thanksgiving travel period, an increase of 1.4 percent over 2008.

• Those 38.4 million travelers represent 12.6 percent of the total U.S. population.

• The highest year for domestic travel this decade was 2000, with 58.6 million domestic travelers, followed by 50.6 million in 2007.

• Regional travel-growth rates are expected to be as low as 0.3 percent in the Mountain region, ranging to above 8.0 percent for both the New England and Pacific regions.

• Automobile is the dominant mode of transportation for the Thanksgiving holiday, accounting for 86 percent, or 33.2 million travelers.

• With airfare prices rapidly increasing, air travel is expected to decline sharply from last year, accounting for just 6 percent of all Thanksgiving travelers.

• After travel in New England trenched in 2008, a recovery of 8.8 percent growth is expected for 2009 based on the region's slightly lower unemployment rate relative to the nation and the improving labor markets in all six states.

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