- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

Traffic was heavy on the roads, rail stations were full and airports were crowded, but one of the busiest travel days of the year went relatively smoothly yesterday in the Washington area.

AAA's Mid-Atlantic branch predicted that 588,000 area residents would travel more than 100 miles by train, plane, bus or car this Thanksgiving weekend.

From the looks of it, Union Station and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport saw their fair share of those travelers.

"This seems to be pretty reasonable," Mark Marder of Boston said as he scanned the short line of people waiting to board one of Amtrak's new Acela trains at Union Station for the trip north.

He faced the prospect of bad weather, however, as sleet and freezing rain in New England surprised homeward-bound travelers.

Amtrak spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings said there were no major delays or problems on its rail lines.

"We've taken precautions," she said. "In the Northeast alone, we added 40 extra trains to our service."

At noon yesterday, the region's rail hub was relatively calm, with travelers such as Mr. Marder and his family coming to the station early to beat the rush.

"We were afraid of that, so we left with two hours to spare," Mr. Marder said.

Justin McNaull, an AAA spokesman, said there were no major travel disruptions in the area.

The good weather across the region yesterday may have helped, he said.

"All it takes is one medium-size accident or some bad weather and it can completely foul up the traffic," Mr. McNaull cautioned.

The area's highways also had to contend with traffic for two professional football games. Nearly 150,000 fans attended 1 p.m. games yesterday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and at PSINet Stadium in Baltimore.

Both games ended shortly after 4 p.m., and the hordes of upset Washington Redskins fans and elated Baltimore Ravens fans crowded the major thoroughfares in Maryland, but no major backups were reported.

AAA Mid-Atlantic estimated that 81 percent of those traveling over the weekend were in their cars. The transportation group notes, too, that nationwide almost 40 million Americans went to pay a visit to relatives or friends.

"Thanksgiving is truly the great American family holiday and people are undaunted by the increased fuel prices and airline costs," Mr. McNaull said.

Ryan Terry waited with girlfriend Kim Reynolds in another short line for Ms. Reynolds' train to New York City. The District of Columbia residents had returned Saturday night from a traffic-clogged four-hour drive from Philadelphia; now Ms. Reynolds was leaving for New York on business.

"It's horrible. It stinks because you try to time it differently," she said. "You try to leave work early and it doesn't work out."

As the day wore on, lines snaked through Union Station and the calm faces of the morning became the tense expressions of the afternoon.

"Sometimes, when it's crowded, it can make it overwhelming," Arlene Davis said.

Ms. Davis was one of a dozen or so Amtrak "holiday volunteers," employees who work for the railroad in another capacity but offered to help customers at the station over the busy holiday weekend.

The midday scene at Reagan National saw an onslaught of travelers trying to beat the evening rush, like Mike and Susan Neri, who returned to the District early from Texas to avoid delays.

"The benefits of a few extra hours with family don't outweigh the hassle of airport delays," Mr. Neri said as he and his wife waited for their bags.

For the most part, the comings and goings at the busy airport went smoothly, even into the evening hours.

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