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Holiday weekend traffic may be laborious

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The roads could be congested this Labor Day weekend as AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting a year-to-year increase in holiday traffic, in Virginia and nationwide.

AAA projects that nearly 950,000 Virginians will take trips for summer’s last holiday period, which runs from today to Monday. That projection is 2.1 percent higher than last year.

Of those expected travelers, 87 percent could be headed 50 miles or farther.

Most travelers will be driving.

Holiday travelers can expect to see dormant work zones in the state, as the Virginia Department of Transportation will lift lane closures on most interstates and highways from noon Friday until noon Tuesday.

For those who plan to use the Interstate 95 HOV lanes, those will be open for southbound traffic from noon Friday until 2 p.m. Saturday.

The lanes will reopen for northbound traffic by 4 p.m. Saturday and remain open through 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Based on AAA’s holiday poll, the auto group also predicted that 34.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday, a 4.2 percent increase compared to last year.

“This is the fourth consecutive year we have seen an increase in those traveling for their last summer hurrah this holiday weekend,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The lift in travel may be attributed to the increasingly positive economic outlook and optimism in the housing market leaving more families feeling confident about traveling this weekend.”

AAA’s 2013 projection is 9 percent higher than Labor Day weekend four years ago, in 2009, which the auto club says marked the end of the recession. Even though gas prices that year had dropped significantly from 2008’s record-high prices, Labor Day holiday travel in 2009 dipped because the holiday came after school had already started for many, AAA reported in 2009.

This year, a drop in gas prices compared to 2012 could be one factor in the expected increase in travelers, AAA says.

Current Virginia gas prices are hovering around $3.36 a gallon for regular, quite a bit lower than the average price for gas on Labor Day 2012 of $3.68 per gallon, the most expensive average ever on record for the holiday, according to AAA. (Current gas prices are still a lot higher than in 2009, when the average state price was about $2.60 a gallon.)

Along with the expected increase in state travelers, AAA also expects them to spend more this Labor Day, up 14 percent ($946) from last year ($827).

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436


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