Expect to see bumper crop of holiday traffic
Highways will be crowded this Labor Day weekend, but at least drivers will get a bit of a break at the pump.
The summer’s last holiday weekend is expected to draw the most travelers since 2008, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic projections.
Nationally, nearly 35 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or further this weekend, a 1.3 percent increase over last year.
In Virginia, nearly 1 million are expected to travel for the five-day weekend. The Labor Day holiday period runs from today through Monday.
“For the fifth consecutive year, more travelers year-over-year are squeezing in the last bit of summer over the Labor Day weekend,” said AAA’s Martha Mitchell Meade.
The long-range weather forecast isn’t deterring travelers. Temperatures and humidity are expected to rise over the long weekend. The first chance of rain isn’t predicted until Sunday, when there’s a 30 percent likelihood.
And gas prices aren’t hindering the trend toward more end-of-summer trips with per-gallon costs expected to be the lowest in four years.
The average price of gas nationwide early this week was $3.44 for a gallon of regular, a 13 cent drop from a month ago and 9 cents less than last year at this time, according to AAA.
It’s even better in Virginia where prices at the pump are the third lowest in the nation. The average price statewide early this week was $3.20, 16 cents less than the same time last year.
Locally, the gas prices are even lower. On Wednesday, a gallon of regular cost $3.06 on average, a penny higher than a week ago, but 26 cents lower than a year ago. And a few stations in the region have regular gas below $3 per gallon, according to Virginia
Travelers staying in hotels might need the money saved from lower fuel costs. AAA reported that the average price for hotel rooms has risen 6 percent since last Labor Day.
Although the roads will be more congested than last year, travelers will get some relief in the state’s many work zones.
The Virginia Department of Transportation will put a hold on lane closures on most interstates and highways from noon Friday until noon Tuesday.
The highway department also has some online tools to help avoid traffic congestion.
VDOT has produced an online map that shows traffic trends during Labor Day weekends from 2011 to 2013. Find a link to the map on the fredericksburg.com Transportation blog or go to VDOT’s 511 page, which gives real-time updates on traffic.
Holiday travelers can expect to see a heavier Virginia State Police presence this weekend, too.
Last Labor Day, troopers charged 120 people with drunken driving. They cited 11,834 with speeding and 2,552 with reckless driving.
As with other holidays, the increased traffic also leads to more crashes.
Last Labor Day holiday, nine people died in crashes on Virginia roads, the state police reported.
One of their goals as part of the ramped up patrols is to cut down on deadly crashes.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436