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Motorists take to the highway

Travel season expected to be busier thanks to lower gas prices

Travel season expected to be busier thanks to lower gas prices

November 23, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Clyde and Claudine Miller left Oklahoma City on Monday morning, driving more than 550 miles a day to reach a family Thanksgiving celebration in Reading, Pa., by Wednesday night.

Early Wednesday afternoon, the couple stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center off Interstate 81 near Greencastle, Pa. Traffic was good during their trip, and they didn't have to pay more than $2.11 for a gallon of gas, Clyde Miller said.

The Millers were two of about 540 guests who stopped at the welcome center Wednesday from 7 a.m. to noon, said Carrie Burdge, a center supervisor.

This year's holiday travel season is expected to be busier than in 2005, according to a press release from AAA Mid-Atlantic.

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AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates that 38.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 2.7 percent increase from last year.

More than 724,000 Marylanders are expected to travel 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving weekend.

A majority of travelers will drive to their destination and can take advantage of gasoline prices that are about 10 cents cheaper than last year.

Judy Davis, of Harrisville, N.Y., drives to her parents' home in Greensboro, N.C., for holidays. Davis stopped at the West Virginia Welcome Center near Falling Waters, W.Va., and asked her daughter how many miles they had to drive until they reached Virginia. She has found that Virginia has the cheapest gas prices, Davis said.

The West Virginia Welcome Center hosts 300 to 500 people an hour on the busy day before Thanksgiving, supervisor Vanessa Williamson said. Most people need directions or ask if there are traffic problems on Interstate 81, she said.

Anna and Gary Stump left State College, Pa., on Wednesday morning heading for her parents' house in Henderson, N.C. Interstate 95 is "the worst," but the couple didn't encounter any problems on Interstate 81, Anna Stump said.

Law enforcement is beefing up patrols to contend with holiday traffic.

"We'll be watching for the things that we normally look for - speeding, seat belts, aggressive driving and so forth," Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Chris Barnard said.

Sgt. Chad Woodring said the Hagerstown Police Department will continue watching for aggressive and intoxicated drivers. It has conducted occasional DWI checkpoints all year, he said.

Motorists do not seem to get in any more accidents than usual during the holidays in Hagerstown, Woodring said.

Staff writer Karen Hanna contributed to this story.

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