Holiday travel expected to dip

Millions of Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day holiday weekend – but not quite as many as last year, according to AAA.

AAA Travel projects 34.8 million Americans are traveling for the holiday, a 0.9 percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year during the holiday travel period, which runs through Monday.

“Although overall national travel is down slightly with 34.8 million holiday travelers, we continue to see a general upward trend from the decade low in 2009 of 30.5 million travelers,” Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central, said in a statement. “Approximately 89 percent of holiday travelers will be driving, most likely anticipating lower gas prices in many areas.”

The 10-year average is 34.7 million travelers, said Bevi Powell, AAA East Central spokeswoman.

The number of those traveling by motor vehicle is expected to be approximately 31.2 million motorists – compared to 31.1 million last year – and most are expected to drive at least 50 miles for their Memorial Day festivities.

Local motorists heading out for the holiday are saving approximately a quarter per gallon on gasoline, compared to prices at the pump last Memorial Day.

The price for regular unleaded in the Altoona area is $3.459, compared to $3.698 at this time last year, Powell said.

The Pennsylvania State Police are urging motorists to drive safely.

“As always, we encourage everyone to wear their seat belts, give themselves extra time to get where they are going and obey the speed limits,” said Troop G spokesman Trooper Jeff Petucci. “Those who are able to drink alcohol – we want them to have a designated driver.”

Motorists should be aware of construction zones.

“We have some small construction zones on Interstate 99, so motorists should pay attention to the signs prior to getting to those zones, there may be some lanes shut down,” Petucci said. “Look for the highway signs, slow down and obey the speed limit.”

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will be busy over the holiday weekend. Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said there will be nearly 2 million vehicles traveling on the turnpike during the holiday weekend.

“We need drivers to pay attention and keep both hands on the wheel. Remember, Pennsylvania law prohibits texting and emailing while driving,” Compton said in a statement. “We also want holiday motorists to be aware of the other safety rules, such as moving over for stopped emergency vehicles, obeying the posted speed limits, and using their seat belts.”

The turnpike is suspending maintenance work and will have all lanes in each direction available for traffic through 6 a.m. Wednesday.