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Memorial weekend traffic may drop

It looks like Memorial Day weekend traffic will be down this year.

It’s not because of gas prices, which are lower than last year.

Instead, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts fewer holiday travelers this weekend because of the federal sequestration and the expired payroll tax cut, both of which have taken a chunk out of Americans’ paychecks.

The auto club said of the 34 million Americans expected to travel 50 miles or more over the long weekend, some 1 million will be Virginians, down 1.6 percent from last year.

“First-quarter economic indicators were trending positively before taking a negative turn during the second quarter as the impact of the sequester and the expiration of the federal payroll tax cut began to hit, compelling some holiday travelers to stay home,” AAA MidAtlantic’s Martha Mitchell Meade said in a news release.

There are other expected impacts from the pay cuts.

Median spending is expected to be less than last year.

Fewer Virginians plan to fly for their holiday trips, too, but that’s because airfares are up 10 percent, Meade said.

The pay cuts also seem to have dampened any positive impact from lower gas prices.

This year, the average cost of a gallon of regular in Virginia is $3.39, down 14 cents from this time last year, according to AAA. The average price in the Fredericksburg area on Wednesday also was $3.39, with a low of $3.28.

Last May, the local average for a gallon of gas was $3.50.

Those who drive in Virginia over the weekend—from noon Friday through noon Tuesday—will get a break from lane closures in construction zones.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is putting a hold on closures, including the 29-mile-long express lanes project on Interstate 95, which starts in Garrisonville and stretches north in the median into Prince William County.

VDOT has an online tool that might help travelers avoid traffic, or at least the worst of it. Maps pinpointing past peak travel times can be found online at: people.virginia.edu/~seb4v/MDW and can be used on mobile devices.

Whether you travel or stay home, the weather over the weekend doesn’t look all that promising for outdoor endeavors.

The National Weather Service predicts rain, including thunderstorms, for Friday, Sunday night and Monday.

The highs during the long weekend will be nice at around 70 degrees, with nighttime temperatures dropping into the 50s and 40s.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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