Travelers take to the area's highways

AAA predicted that fewer travelers had plans to go away this weekend than did last year's Labor Day holiday weekend.

AAA predicted that fewer travelers had plans to go away this weekend than did last year's Labor Day holiday weekend.

September 02, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

Labor Day may be considered a bookend of summer, but with forecasters predicting rain, it may seem more like spring.

And, instead of orange flowers, some travelers in the Tri-State area may be seeing orange construction barrels as road work continues on portions of Interstate 81 in West Virginia and in other areas.

Still, AAA predicts 32.7 million travelers plan to take a trip 50 miles or more from home this Labor Day holiday, down slightly from the 33 million estimated to have traveled last year.

Carol Ecton, branch manager of the Hagerstown AAA office, attributes the slight decline to children in school and the shaky economy.


She thinks many local residents will use the weekend for one last fling at the beach, with popular destinations including Ocean City, Md., and Virginia Beach, Va. Extended or long trips are usually reserved for other times of the year, including what Ecton said is probably the biggest travel time - Thanksgiving.

Gettysburg, Pa., will be a popular local destination this weekend, she predicted.

Past experience shows that most people will not alter their plans because of dismal weather, like what the area could see today and Monday, said Ecton, who has been with AAA for 15 years.

Travelers should be home by 3 p.m. Monday to avoid heavy traffic, Ecton said.

Of the nation's projected 32.7 million travelers, 27.5 million are expected to drive, compared to 27.6 million in 2001. Another 3.8 million plan to go by air, down from 4.1 million a year ago, while 1.4 million will travel by train or bus compared to 1.3 million in 2001, according to AAA.

To protect all those people on the road, West Virginia State Police Sgt. D.D. Forman said the weekend has been declared a CARE - Combined Accident Reduction Effort - weekend.

Although West Virginia is experiencing a state police manpower shortage, officers who are available will focus on trying to reduce highway accidents, Forman said.

CARE is a national program started in 1977.

Forman agrees with travel officials who say Labor Day is not as busy as other times of the year in regard to traffic, possibly because children are already in schools.

Gasoline prices have remained about the same since this time last year, down just 2 cents to $1.40 on average for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline, according to AAA officials.

Nationally, 22 percent of people on the road plan to visit small towns or rural areas, 21 percent will head to the beach and 19 percent are expected to head to cities, according to information on AAA's Web site.

Other popular destinations include mountains and lakes, 11 percent each; theme or amusement parks, 6 percent; and state or national parks, 4 percent, the Web site indicates.

AAA's Labor Day travel projections are based on a national travel survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.

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