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Race to Leave Town Gets the Green Flag


You can go home again, but it's going to take some common sense and common courtesy to get there safely.

The traditional frantic race to airports, freeway onramps, train depots and bus terminals begins today, the start of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

And also, as is traditional, transportation experts urged travelers to exercise caution as they rush to get out of town, especially today, the busiest travel day of the year.

"It's more important to get there, than to get there fast," said Carol Thorp, an Automobile Club of Southern California spokeswoman. "Our message to travelers is: 'Drive alert and arrive alive, and do all the things you need to do to make that happen.' "

Airport officials across Southern California are reminding passengers to arrive at terminals at least an hour before a domestic flight and two hours before an international flight. To speed things along, passengers should carry photo identification cards, travel light and avoid taking anything onto airplanes that resembles a weapon.

About 1.5 million travelers are expected to jam the terminal at Los Angeles International Airport today through Sunday.

On Tuesday, Burbank Airport officials felt the first wave of holiday travelers, said Sean McCarthy, an airport spokesman.

Passenger traffic at the regional airport is expected to jump 25%--from 12,000 passengers on a normal travel day to 15,000 a day--through Sunday, he said.

Van Nuys Airport officials reported the parking lot for the FlyAway shuttle bus service to LAX was already filled by late Tuesday morning.

Drop-offs at the shuttle bus terminal, however, are still welcome, however, officials said.

The shuttle bus makes 98 round-trips to LAX daily, beginning at 4:45 a.m. Round-trip shuttle fares are $6 for adults and $3.50 for children, ages 2 years through 12 years.

At Orange County's John Wayne Airport, about 24,000 travelers are expected to board flights today compared with the norm of 18,000 to 20,000, said Kathleen Campini Chambers, an airport spokeswoman.

The addition of 1,000 parking spaces at the Orange County airport is expected to help alleviate frenetic searches for spots within airport walking distance.

For motorists taking to the roadways, the Auto Club recommends drivers get at least five hours' sleep before getting behind the wheel. They should also check the vehicle's tire pressure, fluid levels, headlights and windshield wiper blades. And of course, drivers should avoid alcohol and drugs.

Thorp also cautioned motorists to allow plenty of time to get to their destination. A tight schedule can foster road rage, he said.

"People feel rushed and they run red lights, or another driver cuts them off and they get annoyed," Thorp said. "We are telling drivers to let it go and not react to that."

About 5.1 million drivers are expected to be on the road this weekend in 13 western states, said Arline Dillman, an Auto Club traffic safety manager.

In California, traffic is expected to jump an average of 7% today through Sunday, said Pat Reid, a Caltrans spokeswoman. The busiest travel day is expected to be today, with traffic volume up 18% over the usual flow.

While Caltrans officials anticipate snarls on roads leading to LAX, Burbank, John Wayne and Ontario airports, they also expect slowdowns through a construction zone--both sides of the Golden State Freeway near the California 138 interchange between Castaic and Gorman.

At least the weather is expected to be pleasant for those stuck in traffic.

Those remaining in or coming into the Los Angeles area can expect blue skies and mild temperatures throughout the long holiday weekend, forecasters said.

Today, Thanksgiving Day and Friday are expected to be sunny with high temperatures in the mid-70s to low 70s, said Stuart Seto of the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Low clouds and fog will make an appearance Saturday morning as a storm system moves south from San Luis Obispo, but temperatures will drop only slightly and no rain is expected, Seto said.

For information on road conditions, travelers can call the Caltrans Highway Information Network at (800) 427-7623 or surf the Web to

The California Highway Patrol will beef up freeway patrols between 6 o'clock tonight and midnight Sunday, CHP Southern Division Chief Ed Gomez said. Officers will be looking for impaired drivers and travelers not wearing seat belts.

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