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Uptick in Memorial Day weekend travel expected

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

Rising temperatures, increased traffic and lower gas prices will greet travelers heading in and out of the Historic Triangle as the Memorial Day weekend signifies the unofficial start of summer.

After a brief cool down with rain early this week, Thursday's temperatures will be near 80 degrees with a chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service. On Friday and Saturday, the National Weather Service forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the Williamsburg region in the low 80s.

Sunday and Monday brings with it a 40 percent chance of rain and rising temperatures into the mid-80s the National Weather Service says.

Along with rising temperatures, AAA is predicting an increase in traffic nationally and regionally.

The organization expects 39.3 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from home over the Memorial Day weekend, a million more than a year ago and the highest holiday travel volume in 12 years. The vast majority of travelers — 88 percent of them — will travel by car, AAA says.

In Virginia, 1.1 million people plan to travel out of town, with the car still the preferred option, according to AAA Tidewater.

Georjeane Blumling, AAA Tidewater vice president of public affairs, said the expected increase in Memorial Day travel is an offshoot of the travel industry's positive growth in 2017.

"Higher confidence has led to more consumers spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day," Blumling said.

Some of that confidence, she said, is due to falling gas prices.

In Virginia, the average per gallon is $2.14, with gas prices in Hampton Roads even cheaper, at $2.11 per gallon, according to AAA Tidewater. In James City and York counties and Williamsburg, gas prices range from $2.12 to $2.49 per gallon. The national average is $2.34.

"What we're seeing is that people don't see gas as expensive until it hits the $2.50 mark," Blumling said. "As long as we're closer to $2 than $2.50, that seems to be an acceptable cost for traveling."

With the increase in traffic, the Virginia Department of Transportation will suspend road construction work from noon Friday until noon Tuesday.

The construction zone along Interstate 64, where a 13.3-mile stretch is being widened, will still be in effect, with a 55 mph speed limit enforced. VDOT says to expect delays getting through it.

Based on traffic data, VDOT says the periods of heaviest congestion over the weekend are most likely from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Monday.

Virginia State Police is also ramping up its efforts over the holiday weekend with the Click It or Ticket campaign, where state police elevate their vigilance to ensure people are wearing seat belts. The two-week campaign started Monday and runs through June 4. Of the 761 people killed last year in crashes across Virginia, 304 were not wearing seat belts.

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

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