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AAA expects holiday travel will decrease

A spokeswoman for AAA attributed the expected decrease to the fact that airline trips were down last year as a result of the

A spokeswoman for AAA attributed the expected decrease to the fact that airline trips were down last year as a result of the

December 24, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - The number of automobile travelers is expected to be down across Maryland this holiday season, but those who venture out on the roads will likely face heavy traffic and delays, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic said Monday.

Spokeswoman Myra Wieman said AAA is expecting 871,400 Maryland residents to travel 50 miles or more in automobiles during the holiday season, a 2 percent decrease from last year.

In 2001, 893,760 state residents traveled by car for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, Wieman said. AAA based the projections on a national survey.

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Wieman said the reason more people traveled in automobiles for the holidays last year was because airline trips decreased as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Virginia Kief, supervisor of the Interstate 81 West Virginia Welcome Center north of the Virginia state line, said traffic has been busy since the weekend and that she expects it to stay that way until after the first of the year.

She said with the holidays and schools and colleges letting out, the Welcome Center will be packed with visitors.

"That's what we're here for," Kief said.

Motorists throughout the Tri-State area will face gasoline prices similar to what they paid around Thanksgiving - about $1.35 a gallon, area gas station managers said. Prices were a few cents lower at some gas stations.

In preparation for the heavy travel, area police departments plan to do extra patrols through the first week of January.

Washington County Sheriff's Department 1st Sgt. Robert Leatherman said the department has been carrying out Operation Safe Holiday since the day after Thanksgiving. That includes deputies doing extra patrols in high retail areas.

He said deputies will put in 80 extra hours of patrol through the beginning of January.

"It's just the traffic flow is just tremendous," Leatherman said.

Hagerstown Police Sgt. Jim Robison said the department will increase drunken driving patrols each night through New Year's.

Maryland State Police will run saturation patrols between midnight and 3 a.m. on the highways, 1st Sgt. Rick Narron said last week.

All three departments have agreed to increase drunken driving enforcements to recognize December as National Drunk and Drugged Driving (3-D) Prevention Month and a campaign called "You Drink & Drive. You Lose."

Cpl. William Mowrey of the Pennsylvania State Police barrack in Chambersburg said troopers will not conduct extra patrols, but he expects the holidays to keep the barrack busy.

He said the number of accidents probably will increase if snow falls later this week.

Wieman said AAA is encouraging motorists to avoid the peak times of travel, late afternoon on Christmas Eve and Jan. 1, when people are returning home.

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