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Officials gear up for Thanksgiving traffic

While state officials are warning that holiday traffic will be heavy as Massachusetts residents travel long distances for family turkey dinners, they are also promising to take steps to ensure things go smoothly.

The state Department of Transportation said it is fully staffing tollbooths and keeping tow trucks as well as emergency personnel on hand next Wednesday through Sunday. The department is urging motorists to leave early in the morning or after 8 p.m. if they want to avoid the crowds.

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From 3 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Plymouth Rock Assurance will also sponsor free tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike at the Allston-Brighton interchange, the department said.

High traffic volumes are expected on the turnpike at Exit 9, the Interstate 84 interchange; at Exit 11A to Interstate 495; at Exit 14 to Interstate 95/Route 128; and Exit 24 to Interstate 93.

“We’re making a bigger push this year to get the resources that we have available out there,” said department spokesman Michael Verseckes, adding that the Tuesday before Thanksgiving was the ninth busiest travel day on the Mass. Pike in 2011. “We also want motorists to make travel decisions that are more informed.”

Message boards will be set up on both sides of the turnpike to provide drivers with delay and backup information, the department said.

Officials urged air travelers to arrive at Logan International Airport at least 2½ hours before domestic flights and three hours before an international flight. Massport said more than 868,000 passengers traveled through Logan during this time last year and a 1 percent increase is expected this year.

The T will run on a weekday schedule on Wednesday and Friday next week with an increased subway and Silver Line service. It will run on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day.

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at
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