Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Kansas Department of Transportation has made improvements to how drivers can access roadway information.
• The enhanced 511 Mobile application (511mm.kdot.org), allows users to check maps, weather, roadway conditions, electronic message signs and work zone information. The site is accessible from iPhones, Droids and Windows mobile devices. KDOT also has updated its voice recognition technology so drivers can call 511 from anywhere in Kansas and get route-specific information.
• At KanDrive (kandrive.org), KDOT has improved their camera views of sections of Interstate 70, Interstate 335 and several other highways in the state. The snapshots are updated every few minutes.
For both applications, KDOT said to check the information before driving.
More than 42 million people will be traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday, an 11.4 percent increase from 2009.
It’s a number to be thankful for, said Jim Hanni, executive vice president of public affairs at AAA Kansas.
“Americans are in a better position on average this Thanksgiving than they were a year ago,” Hanni said. “The improvement in the economy should boost the numbers of Americans traveling.”
Close to two-thirds of those interviewed by AAA said the economy didn’t affect their travel plans.
A busier Thanksgiving weekend is the fourth business quarter in a row that AAA saw a jump in the number of travelers. For Lawrence, AAA offices have seen traffic increase by 5 percent to 10 percent.
While more people leaving home is good news for the economy, it spells higher prices for the money-minded traveler. Hotel rooms and airline tickets are up by 4 percent and 6 percent from last year.
Gasoline is also higher. Last year at this time, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in Kansas was $2.55. Today it’s at $2.75.
Of those leaving home for the holidays, 94 percent will be driving, the highest number ever recorded in AAA’s holiday travel history.
“It’s more affordable, more convenient with greater flexibility and the price of gas isn’t a significant influence,” Hanni said.
With more people on the road, the Kansas Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will step up enforcement. As part of the Kansas Thanksgiving Enforcement Campaign, agencies will have extra patrols watching for impaired drivers, child passenger safety laws and seat belt use.
The campaign, which is funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation, will run from Monday to Sunday and is intended to prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities. Last year over the Thanksgiving holiday, there were 590 collisions, 153 injuries and six deaths in Kansas.
KDOT spokeswoman Kim Qualls encourages drivers to be prepared for winter weather by having an emergency kit in their vehicle and checking information on weather conditions before heading out. Typically, KDOT shuts down its construction projects during the holidays, she said.
It’s a bit early for weather forecasting, but National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn Byrne said temperatures should be in the low to mid 40s next Wednesday. A cold front is expected to come through Thursday morning, bringing some precipitation with it.
“What type, I don’t know yet. It looks more like rain at this time,” Byrne said.
Skies should clear for the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend, but weather will remain cool.