Hol­i­day traf­fic ex­pected to be heavy

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— More peo­ple are ex­pected to hit the road in Mary­land for the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day pe­riod than any time in the past 10 years, of­fi­cials es­ti­mated this week.

Over 1 mil­lion Mary­lan­ders are fore­casted to leave home dur­ing the hol­i­day pe­riod, de­fined as Wed­nes­day, Nov. 23, to Sun­day, Nov. 27, re­flect­ing a 3 per­cent in­crease and the high­est travel vol­ume since 2005, ac­cord­ing to AAA Mid-At­lantic, the lead­ing non­profit au­to­mo­tive ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The travel vol­ume is pro­jected to in­crease for the eighth con­sec­u­tive year na­tion­wide, as 48.7 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are ex­pected to jour­ney 50 miles or more from home this Thanks­giv­ing, rep­re­sent­ing a 1.9 per­cent in­crease over 2015 and the most Thanks­giv­ing trav­el­ers since 2007.

Of­fi­cials pointed to the ris­ing eco­nomic con­fi­dence of con­sumers as one of the chief rea­sons for the in­crease in travel.

“Many more con­sumers na­tion­wide, and in Mary­land, are ex­pected to open their wal­lets for this year’s Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day thanks to im­prove­ments in the econ­omy dur­ing the

ELKTON

sec­ond half of 2016,” said Rag­ina Cooper Averella, public and govern­ment af­fairs man­ager for AAA MidAt­lantic. “Ris­ing wages, in­creased con­sumer spend­ing and over­all strength in con­sumer con­fi­dence ap­pear to be the driv­ing fac­tors con­tribut­ing to this year’s rise in hol­i­day travel vol­ume.”

Also con­tribut­ing to the in­crease in trav­el­ers is the fact that Thanks­giv­ing gas prices are pro­jected to re­main low. Last year, trav­el­ers paid the low­est gas prices since 2008 — when the av­er­age price was $1.85 per gal­lon — and al­though prices are creep­ing up­ward, they re­main com­par­a­tively low.

Av­er­age re­tail gaso­line prices in Mary­land fell 2 cents per gal­lon in the past Traf­fic flowed steadily through heavy rain­fall on Thanks­giv­ing week­end on In­ter­state 95 near North East in 2011.

week, av­er­ag­ing $2.16 a gal­lon as of Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to GasBuddy’s daily sur­vey of 2,167 gas out­lets in Mary­land. This com­pares with the na­tional av­er­age that has fallen 1.7 cents per gal­lon in the last week to $2.13 a gal­lon.

In­clud­ing the change in gas prices in Mary­land dur­ing the past week, prices yes­ter­day were 5.5 cents per gal­lon higher than the same day one year ago and are 7.8 cents per gal­lon lower than a month ago. The na­tional av­er­age has de­creased 8.6 cents per gal­lon dur­ing the last month and stands 5.4 cents per gal­lon higher than this day one year ago.

“As mo­torists pack their bags and pre­pare to head out for Thanks­giv­ing, gas prices are fall­ing across much of the coun­try,” said Pa­trick DeHaan, se­nior petroleum an­a­lyst for GasBuddy. “With a record amount of trav­el­ers, mo­torist will be fac­ing con­ges­tion not only on high­ways but gas sta­tions. But at least low gas prices have lin­gered for much of this year. Keep an eye on word from OPEC over the hol­i­day week­end — there could be some sur­prises at a ma­jor meet­ing to de­cide the fate of an oil pro­duc­tion cut.”

“But no mat­ter what even­tu­ally takes place with the OPEC meet­ing, mo­torists are vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed an­other year of gas prices that will re­main well un­der all-time record highs as oil prices will likely re­main con­fined be­tween $40 and $60 for much of the next year,” he added.

About 43.5 mil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to travel by au­to­mo­bile over the hol­i­days, in­clud­ing about 933,500 in Mary­land, while 3.7 mil­lion na­tion­wide, and 74,600 in Mary­land, are ex­pected to travel by air­plane, ac­cord­ing to AAA es­ti­mates. About 1.4 mil­lion na­tion­ally and 22,200 in Mary­land will travel by other modes, in­clud­ing bus, train or wa­ter­craft.

Ac­cord­ing to AAA’s Leisure Travel In­dex, air­fares are pro­jected to in­crease 21 per­cent this Thanks­giv­ing, land­ing at an av­er­age of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 do­mes­tic routes. Rates for AAA Three Di­a­mond Rated lodg­ings are ex­pected to re­main flat, with trav­el­ers spend­ing an av­er­age of $155 per night. The av­er­age rate for a AAA Two Di­a­mond Rated ho­tel has risen 4 per­cent with an av­er­age nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will av­er­age $52, about 13 per­cent lower than last Thanks­giv­ing.

With so many more ve­hi­cles on state roads, Mary­land State Po­lice re­ported that all pa­trol troop­ers will fo­cus on en­forc­ing im­paired driv­ing, ag­gres­sive driv­ing, speed­ing, dis­tracted driv­ing and other vi­o­la­tions that of­ten con­trib­ute to high­way tragedies. Ad­di­tional troop­ers will be work­ing over­time as­sign­ments funded by high­way safety grants from the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion High­way Safety Of­fice.

Troop­ers from the JFK High­way Bar­rack in Per­ryville will pa­trol In­ter­state 95 from north of Bal­ti­more to the Delaware line. They will im­ple­ment Op­er­a­tion Keep It Mov­ing on Wed­nes­day and again Sun­day, as they fo­cus on keep­ing the in­ter­state traf­fic mov­ing ex­pe­di­tiously and min­i­miz­ing de­lays caused by crashes and traf­fic vi­o­la­tions. Troop­ers will also be work­ing high vis­i­bil­ity pa­trols at the Mary­land House and Ch­e­sa­peake House rest ar­eas to de­ter crime and as­sist trav­el­ers mov­ing through the state.

AAA rec­om­mends that mo­torists check the con­di­tion of their ve­hi­cle’s bat­tery and tires, and pack emer­gency kits be­fore head­ing out on a hol­i­day get­away. Such ef­forts help to de­crease the an­tic­i­pated num­ber of mo­torists in need, al­though AAA ex­pects to res­cue more than 6,000 mo­torists in Mary­land this Thanks­giv­ing, with the pri­mary rea­sons be­ing dead bat­ter­ies, flat tires and lock­outs.

Driv­ers can check travel con­di­tions and de­lays be­fore trav­el­ing. SHA pro­vides up-to-date traf­fic and road con­di­tions at roads. mary­land.gov or chart. state.md.us. Traf­fic con­di­tions are also avail­able at md511.org, or by safely di­al­ing 511 on your cell­phone.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

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