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Low gas prices expected to fuel holiday traffic

Officials are warning Massachusetts motorists that the usual Thanksgiving rush combined with low gas prices may leave a lot of holiday commuters without much thanks.

The Massachusetts Port Authority held a press conference Thursday with representatives from AAA, the MBTA, the Transportation Security Administration, and several other organizations to give tips to those traveling for the holiday.

“We get prepared for the influx because it’s not just the number we see, but a lot of people we see traveling Thanksgiving week are not just veteran travelers,” said Thomas Glynn, Massport chief executive, referring to those who do not travel often, such as young adults or parents with small children.

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“We encourage people to take a little extra time so they’re not racing at the end,” Glynn said.

Friday, Nov. 21, is the first of a string of the 11 busiest travel days of the year, said Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan, with about 100,000 or more travelers expected to come through Logan International Airport each day until Dec. 2. The exception is Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, which is the slowest travel day of the year.

The speakers warned travelers of usual holiday concerns, such as allowing themselves extra time. But with gas prices at the lowest they have been in four years, a AAA representative warned that travel could be worse than usual.

The number of travelers expected next week is higher than normal, not just in Massachusetts, but across the country, Mehigan said.

Mary Maguire, a spokeswoman for AAA Southern New England, said the low gas prices in New England will likely encourage even more people to take to the roads.

As of Monday, Maguire said the average gas price in Massachusetts was $2.93 per gallon — and prices are likely to continue dropping through the holiday weekend.

Maguire said the majority of people who will travel next weekend will do so by car, “especially in New England when you can drive a matter of hours and be in a fabulous destination.”

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“When gas prices are in the decline, it empowers people to travel, because they feel like they have more spending money in their pocket for [vacation],” Maguire said.

To accommodate the extra traffic, the state Department of Transportation will stop most construction projects by noon on Wednesday and will not resume work until Monday, said Michael Verseckes, spokesman for MassDOT.

Because the airport will likely be crowded, airport officials urged travelers to arrive three hours early for international flights, and 1.5 or two hours early for domestic flights, Mehigan said.

The MBTA encouraged travelers to use public transportation whenever possible. Extra trains will be running through the holiday travel period and extra personnel will be on hand to help passengers.


Globe correspondent Trisha Thadani contributed to this report. Kiera Blessing can be reached at kiera.blessing@globe.com.