In­creased Me­mo­rial Day week­end traf­fic eyed

The Kent Island Bay Times - - News -

STEVENSVILLE — AAA MidAt­lantic projects nearly 834,0000 Mary­lan­ders will travel this Me­mo­rial Day hol­i­day week­end, a 2.3 per­cent in­crease com­pared to 2016, and the high­est fig­ure for the hol­i­day since 2005, mir­ror­ing the na­tion­wide trend for Me­mo­rial Day travel. The Me­mo­rial Day hol­i­day travel pe­riod is de­fined as Thurs­day, May 25 to Mon­day, May 29.

This year’s fore­cast also re­flects the sixth con­sec­u­tive year of growth since 2012, af­ter hol­i­day travel de­clined very slightly in 2011, and when May gas prices had peaked to $4.00 per gal­lon in Mary­land. For the third con­sec­u­tive year, Mary­land’s travel vol­ume is ex­pected to ex­ceed 800,000.

“Our fore­cast shows that Mary­lan­ders are join­ing Amer­i­cans across the coun­try in plan­ning a get­away for the Me­mo­rial Day hol­i­day week­end in record num­bers not seen since 2005,” said Rag­ina Cooper Averella, Man­ager of Pub­lic and Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs at AAA Mid-At­lantic. “In­creases in per­sonal in­come and fall­ing un­em­ploy­ment rates have led to strong growth in con­sumer spend­ing, as well as a high level of con­sumer op­ti­mism. These are the driv­ing fac­tors mo­ti­vat­ing Mary­lan­ders to open up their wallets to spend on a hol­i­day trip.”

AAA Mid-At­lantic, trans­porta­tion and safety of­fi­cials, as well as law en­force­ment, were joined by Ocean City Mayor Richard Mee­han Tures­day morn­ing, May 23, at Hem­ing­way’s Res­tau­rant in Stevensville, at the south­ern base of the Bay Bridge, to kick off the un­of­fi­cial start to the sum­mer va­ca­tion sea­son with travel pro­jec­tions and traf­fic safety ini­tia­tives.

“Ocean City is ex­cited to kick off the sum­mer sea­son and the Me­mo­rial Hol­i­day Week­end,” said Mee­han. “Our sum­mer is full of free fam­ily fun, every day of the week, in­clud­ing ex­cit­ing sig­na­ture events like the 10th An­nual Air Show. De­spite all of the ex­cite­ment, safety is al­ways our num­ber one pri­or­ity. We want our vis­i­tors to ar­rive in Ocean City safely, stay safe while you’re here and re­turn home safely. Re­mem­ber to Walk Smart, us­ing cross­walks and cross­ing with the pedes­trian sig­nal.”

Nearly 744,000 Mary­lan­ders in­tend to drive to their des­ti­na­tion, a 2.1 per­cent in­crease over last year’s hol­i­day. Res­i­dents tak­ing to the roads rep­re­sent the largest share (88 per­cent) of over­all trav­el­ers.

“As is typ­i­cal with hol­i­day week­end get­aways, the ma­jor­ity of trav­el­ers will drive to their des­ti­na­tion,” Averella said. “For those trav­el­ers, driv­ing con­sis­tently re­mains a more af­ford­able and of­ten con­ve­nient op­tion, par­tic­u­larly those with fam­ily and pets in tow.”

The strong growth in travel by auto comes de­spite gas prices that are higher than last year. “Mary­land’s gas prices had been on the de­cline over the past month and while there was hope that prices would con­tinue de­clin­ing to a level lower than year ago prices, it ap­pears the trend has halted,” said Averella. “Gas prices have been creep­ing up­ward over the last week, al­though the slight uptick, prices re­main lower than last month’s prices and are only pen­nies higher than 2016 prices.”

As of Mon­day, May 22, Mary­land’s av­er­age price was $2.33 per gal­lon, which re­flects a three cents in­crease from last week but an eight cents de­crease from last month’s price. The price dif­fer­ence com­pared to last year’s price is nar­row­ing with the state av­er­age only four cents higher than the 2016 av­er­age price on May 22.

Last year, Mary­lan­ders paid an av­er­age $2.32 per gal­lon for reg­u­lar un­leaded gaso­line on Me­mo­rial Day and an even higher price in 2015, an av­er­age of $2.69.

As the roads will be packed this Me­mo­rial Day hol­i­day week­end, AAA rec­om­mends trav­el­ers avoid trav­el­ing through ma­jor cities dur­ing peak travel times to min­i­mize en­coun­ter­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion. “The best time to leave will be in the early morn­ings be­cause the roads should be less crowded, and you will have more time to get to your des­ti­na­tion safely,” Averella said.

The in­crease in air travel is out­pac­ing over­all Me­mo­rial Day week­end travel growth, as over 5 per­cent more State res­i­dents, over 65,000, in­tend to fly to their des­ti­na­tion com­pared to 2016. This is the second con­sec­u­tive year this mode of travel has in­creased af­ter sev­eral years of de­clines.

“This year’s sig­nif­i­cant growth in air travel is a tes­ta­ment to con­sumers’ con­fi­dence to spend on travel, de­spite this year’s higher air­fares,” said Averella.

Ac­cord­ing to AAA’s Travel Leisure In­dex, av­er­age air­fares for the top 40 do­mes­tic flight routes will be nine per­cent higher this Me­mo­rial Day, with an av­er­age round trip ticket land­ing at $181.

Mary­lan­ders are also choos­ing other modes of trans­porta­tion, in­clud­ing train, bus, or wa­ter­craft, re­flect­ing an in­crease of 1.4 per­cent com­pared to the 2016 hol­i­day, al­though these res­i­dents rep­re­sent only three per­cent of hol­i­day trav­el­ers, nearly 25,000.

“His­tor­i­cally, travel by other modes rep­re­sents the small­est piece of the travel pie in Mary­land, as well as na­tion­wide,” com­mented Averella. “It seems many trav­el­ers value the con­ve­nience and low cost of auto travel or the short travel times of­fered by air travel that other trans­porta­tion modes do not nec­es­sar­ily pro­vide.”

The Mary­land State Po­lice and the Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Author­ity Po­lice will be out in full force pa­trolling the State’s high­ways for the Me­mo­rial Day hol­i­day week­end and are urg­ing mo­torists to take re­spon­si­bil­ity while driv­ing to keep them­selves, their pas­sen­gers and oth­ers on the road safe.

“State Po­lice will be on high alert this up­com­ing hol­i­day week­end to fo­cus on re­mov­ing dan­ger­ous driv­ers from our high­ways,” said Lieu­tenant Colonel Frank Lioi, chief of the Mary­land State Po­lice Field Op­er­a­tions Bureau. “If you are driv­ing this week­end, and most peo­ple will be at some point, it is your obli­ga­tion to make traf­fic safety a pri­or­ity. Avoid drunk and dis­tracted driv­ing to help re­duce in­juries and fa­tal­i­ties across our state.”

As the week­end of­ten in­volves bar­be­cues and gath­er­ings in which al­co­hol is served, law en­force­ment and safety ad­vo­cates are also re­mind­ing mo­torists not to drink and drive and to re­port drunk driv­ers.

“The sum­mer months are some of the dead­li­est times of the year for traf­fic crashes and week­ends are the dead­li­est time of the week for crashes,” said Kurt Gre­gory Erick­son, pres­i­dent of the Mary­land non­profit Washington Re­gional Al­co­hol Pro­gram, a 35-year-old pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship com­bat­ing drunk driv­ing. “This sum­mer, Mary­land mo­torists are asked to not only re­port sus­pected drunk driv­ers by safely di­al­ing 911 but also to buckle-up. The wear­ing of a seat­belt may be your best de­fense against a drunk driver.”

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Ocean City Mayor Richard Mee­han told Mary­lan­ders to use their va­ca­tion days to travel to the beach not just this Me­mo­rial Day week­end, but through­out the sum­mer, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at Hem­ing­way’s Res­tau­rant on Tuesday, May 23.

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