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TRAVELERS STUFF AIRPORTS, ROADWAYS.

Byline: Mary Beth Alexander and Lee Condon Daily News Staff Writers

It's a bit like choosing between two evils, but Shelley Werner of Sylmar would rather battle the hustle and bustle at Burbank Airport than gridlock on the Golden State Freeway.

Werner learned her lesson several years ago when she tried to drive to her parents' home in Oakland the day before Thanksgiving and saw a six-hour trip become an eight-hour ordeal due to a flood of holiday travelers.

So, as she waited to board a plane to Oakland, Werner seemed not to mind the din of squealing children, chattering adults and droning flight announcements, or being jostled by luggage carts and hurried travelers.

``It's crowded at the airport, but it's definitely better than driving,'' Werner said.

Indeed, airports and freeways became jammed Wednesday as the rush to head home for the holiday began.

By midafternoon, traffic on some of Los Angeles' major freeways came to a standstill.

``I guess the (Interstate) 5 is already like a parking lot,'' California Highway Patrol Officer Rob Lund said, after making a 2:30 p.m. check of the roadways. ``As people are starting to head out things will get slower.''

Anticipating an increase in road travelers, the CHP deployed extra officers to maintain order on the streets. Lund said the added patrols would remain on duty until early Monday.

``Every available officer will be out there,'' Lund said. ``There's more people out there. With more people you have a greater likelihood of accidents and that kind of stuff.''

Nearly 5 million Americans - just slightly less than last year - will be

traveling in the West over the holiday, said Madeleine Drake, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. That means roads will be packed, especially Sunday evening, she said.

``If you can, leave very early Sunday or Monday,'' Drake said. ``It's going to be crowded, especially on the Grapevine.''

Though the prospect of inching along the San Diego or Ventura freeways is less than inviting, the good news for California motorists is that gasoline prices are lower than last year, Drake said.

The price of regular unleaded in the state dropped 2 cents compared with last year to an average $1.21 a gallon - about a nickel cheaper than the nationwide average, she said.

Airline fares are also down, which helps explain a 2 percent increase in plane travel in the West, Drake said.

Officials at Los Angeles International Airport predicted 20 percent more travelers would pass in and out of the airport than on a normal weekend. Officials at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport also expected to see bigger crowds.

So it was no surprise Wednesday when parking lots began filling up and terminals were packed to standing-room-only capacity. Still, officials at both airports said things were running surprisingly well.

``It's fairly busy but things are moving along very effectively,'' said LAX spokeswoman Nancy Niles. ``It's been a very smooth travel day, very beautiful weather. People seem to be in happy spirits.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1--color) Thanksgiving travelers fill a terminal at Burbank Airport to capacity Wednesday.

(2) Cars jam the entrance to Burbank Airport on Wednesday as travelers rush to get away for the Thanksgiving holiday.

John McCoy/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Nov 28, 1996
Words:539
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