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High gas prices won’t slow holiday travel plans in District

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Across the nation soaring gas prices are putting the squeeze on Memorial Day weekend getaway plans, but people in the Washington region say they plan to buck that trend and travel anyway.

They will pay twice for the privilege, once at the pump and again as they burn that expensive petrol idling in congested traffic.

The American Automobile Association said Tuesday that its annual Memorial Weekend survey shows a slight uptick in the number of the region’s residents who say they plan to drive 50 miles or more this year over last, though a gallon of gas costs $1.10 more than it did a year ago.

More traffic will mean greater delays, according to INRIX, a compa­ny that pro­vides re­al-time traff­ic information used by nav­igation applications. They ranked the congestion expected on southbound I-95 on Friday afternoon as one of the top five traffic headaches in the nation, with travel south to Russell Avenue likely to take three times longer than normal.

“Memorial Day weekend combined with an early start to a heavy summer construction season will create havoc for people trying to get out of town,” said Kevin Foreman, INRIX vice president for mobile applications.

The AAA forecast that overall 866,562 Washington area residents will travel this weekend, an increase of nearly 12,000 from last year. Most people who said they were concerned about gas prices said they would eliminate other frills from their travel plans .

“Scrimp and save and still go,” said AAA spokesman John B. Townsend II. “Roughly, 31 cents out of each traveler’s dollar will be spent on fuel for the round-trip, compared to just 25 cents from last year. The average holiday traveler from the Washington metro area plans to spend $813 during the upcoming holiday period. Of that amount, roughly $258 will be spent on gas for the journey.”

The price of gas in the region has increased by 37 percent since last year, now averaging $3.93 for a gallon of regular, nine cents higher than the national average, Townsend said.

Though AAA said airfares have surged by 14 percent over a year ago, the number of Washingtonians who said they would fly to weekend destinations increased by 8,243 compared with last year.

The only drop in planned weekend travel this year came in buses and railroads, with 11.2 percent fewer people in the Washington region saying they would use them.

That drop was in keeping with the picture in the rest of the country, which showed people scaling back their weekend plans and planning to drive less, according to the AAA survey. About 30.9 million people said they plan to drive to their destination, a small decline from the 31 million who drove last year.

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