AAA: Labor Day traffic to be highest since ’08

Expect the roads to be crowded this Labor Day weekend.

AAA projects 34.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2008 and a 1.3 percent increase over 2013.

Nearly 86 percent of travelers (29.7 million), including almost 5 million in Pennsylvania, New York and other states in the Mid-Atlantic region, will celebrate the holiday with a final road trip before summer comes to a close.

The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday through Monday.

“Millions in the Mid-Atlantic region are planning a trip to celebrate their last taste of summer freedom before settling back into the school and work routines of the fall season,” said Jim Lehman, president of AAA East Central in a statement. “We are ending summer on a positive note with travel demand trending upward.”

Many U.S. consumers are paying lower gas prices, and in some regions, the lowest gas prices since August 2010. AAA expects gas prices to have little impact on the number of people traveling for Labor Day, though lower prices could help make travel more affordable.

Barring a major development, prices are likely to remain relatively low compared to recent years, which will allow travelers to allocate more of their budgets toward travel expenses. Nationally, the current price of gas is $3.44 compared to $3.59 on Labor Day last year.

The price of gas at most locations in the Altoona area is $3.499, while the average price in western Pennsylvania at this time last year was $3.592, according to AAA.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials expect nearly 2.2 million vehicles to travel the highway between Friday and Monday. With some areas of the turnpike now posted at 70 mph, motorists are advised to be aware of where the speed limit is reduced.

With the increase in traffic expected over the holiday weekend, motorists are asked to pay attention to the posted speed limit, especially in work zones, and drive safely.

“Whether crews are in a work zone or not, these areas still need to be approached by drivers with caution. The safety barriers are in place for a reason, and the speed restrictions will be enforced,” said Capt. Gregory M. Bacher of Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit responsible for patrolling the Pennsylvania Turnpike, in a statement. “Patrols and enforcement efforts will be increased to watch for aggressive driving and ensure holiday-traveler safety.”

The Blair County DUI Task Force also is planning enforcement efforts to search for impaired drivers during the holiday period.