Heavy holiday traffic expected

Holiday travel is expected to be up for the first time this summer during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

More than 4.7 million people from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are expected to travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, according to a recent survey by AAA.

Regional travel is up about 4.2 percent, mirroring the national survey results, which indicate a lift as 34.1 million Americans anticipate Labor Day weekend trips.

“Eighty-four percent will be traveling by car, while just over 8 percent will be flying to their destinations,” said Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central. “Labor Day presents a last-minute opportunity to enjoy some time with friends and family before the settling into the day-to-day school and work responsibilities that come with the changing season.”

Auto travel is anticipated to be up 4.3 percent in the region with 4 million drivers traveling to their destination.

“We are expecting an uptick for Labor Day after seeing travel remain relatively flat for the other summer holidays. Perhaps people pushed their trips back to see how the economy is doing,” said Bevi Powell, AAA East Central spokeswoman.

The projected 4.7 million travelers in the Mid-Atlantic states would be the largest increase since the recession in 2008 when 6.33 million traveled over the Labor Day holiday. About 4.55 million traveled in 2012.

Travelers in the Altoona area will pay less for gasoline this year. The price of regular unleaded is $3.66 per gallon compared with $3.77 per gallon at this time last year, Powell said.

With heavy traffic volumes expected, Pennsylvania State Police will be looking for aggressive drivers.

“We want everyone to wear their seat belts and not to drive impaired. We will have extra patrols out over the weekend and will have roving DUI patrols,” said spokesman Trooper Jeff Petucci. “We know there will be a lot of traffic. Pay attention to road signs, and be aware of construction zones, and obey the signs that are posted.”

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials expect a busy holiday weekend.

Officials are anticipating nearly 2.7 million vehicles hitting the highway during the four-day Labor Day weekend – an increase over last year’s count.

To prepare for the surge in travel, roadway maintenance and construction activities have been suspended until 6 a.m. Wednesday. This will allow all travel lanes to be open to traffic except in the case of emergencies.

Construction activity that does not impact travel lanes may continue behind protective barriers in some areas, thereby reducing shoulder widths. However, at least two lanes in each direction will remain open, except possibly during an emergency.

Turnpike motorists should be prepared for possible delays and congestion at interchanges during peak travel times on Friday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Monday between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Drivers should remain alert and cautious, particularly during those peak periods.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.