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Planned travel pays off in free tolls, cheaper gas

July 03, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

With approximately 592,000 out of 5.5 million Marylanders expected to travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, proper planning could pay off when it comes to drive time and buying gas.

The Bay Bridge has a financial incentive for people driving during off-peak hours Friday - no tolls - and AAA officials warn gas prices could be higher in the Washington, D.C., area.

More people, nationwide, are expected to travel this Fourth of July weekend than in the past nine years, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Amanda Knittle said Wednesday.

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"We believe there's a pent-up travel demand," Knittle said.

Many people didn't vacation during the war with Iraq, and a tough winter and rainy spring may have delayed vacation plans, she said.

Those who cross the Bay Bridge during off-peak hours on Friday, from 7 p.m. to midnight, won't have to pay a toll, said Teri Moss, spokeswoman with the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The Maryland Lottery is paying $27,295 to sponsor the bridge tolls during that period, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation's Web site. In exchange, the lottery gets its name on toll booths and highway signs, the site states.

No lane closures are planned on the bridge from 5 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, Moss said.

Other off-peak hours for eastbound traffic on the bridge are from 7 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday and from 5 p.m. Saturday to noon on Sunday, Moss said.

For westbound traffic, off-peak driving hours are from 7 p.m. Saturday to noon on Sunday and after 11 p.m. on Sunday, Moss said.

No lane closures are planned for Interstate 95 from Baltimore to the Delaware state line this holiday weekend, Moss said.

Any lanes that were closed by cones on Maryland's state highways and interstates will be freed up from mid-afternoon Thursday to about 9 a.m. Monday, said Kellie Boulware, spokeswoman with the Maryland State Highway Administration.

People can go to www.marylandroads.com and click on the live traffic CHART icon to view traffic camera information, Boulware said.

Drivers can listen to 1610 AM, 1630 AM or 1290 AM for traffic information, Boulware said.

Tri-State area drivers might want to consider filling their gas tanks near home if they are driving to the Washington, D.C., area.

The Washington, D.C., region is the most profitable place in the nation to sell gas, said Deborah DeYoung, spokeswoman with AAA Mid-Atlantic in Washington, D.C.

"We're getting gouged," DeYoung said Wednesday.

Nationwide, the price markup is usually 12 cents a gallon, but in Washington, D.C., it is 35 cents a gallon, DeYoung said. The markup is 23 cents a gallon in the D.C. suburbs, she said.

In Washington, D.C., the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $1.61 on Tuesday compared with $1.44 in Hagerstown, AAA officials said.

The average price for gas in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs was $1.50 per gallon on Tuesday, DeYoung said.

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