AAA: More people planning to travel Memorial Day weekend than did last year

Drivers leaving the Naval Academy graduation Friday could delay beachgoers headed for the Bay Bridge.
Drivers leaving the Naval Academy graduation Friday could delay beachgoers headed for the Bay Bridge. (Marvin Joseph/the Washington Post)
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By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010

With the Koreas in conflict, the gulf bubbling with oil, the euro in jeopardy and the stock market doing somersaults, the coming long weekend seems, to more than 800,000 people in the Washington area, like a great chance to shed the world's worries and get out of town.

In planes, trains and automobiles, that's how many people told AAA surveyors that they planned to get away for the Memorial Day weekend. That's an increase of 6 percent over last year, and 684,900 of the people will travel in cars, even though gas prices are 42 cents a gallon higher than they were a year ago.

Nationally, AAA's survey found that 32.1 million Americans say they will travel from home over the weekend, a 5.4 percent increase over last year.

AAA's Lon Anderson attributed the increase to a pent-up desire to travel, among people who stayed home during the past two years of recession. The rebounding economy and discounts being offered by resort destinations have lured people back into travel mode, he said.

Although gas prices are higher than last year, they have dropped by several cents a gallon since peaking May 6, Anderson said.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, conduit to the Delaware and Maryland beaches for thousands of the region's escapees, is expected to handle more than 350,000 vehicles between Friday and Monday.

Bridge officials urged drivers to cross at less popular travel times, either early morning or late evening.

The eastbound approach to the bridge Friday afternoon could turn into a major mess when the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ends shortly after noon. Thousands of drivers leaving the ceremony will exit onto Route 50 just west of the Severn River Bridge, a regular choke point for beach traffic on Friday afternoons.

Another major event will slow traffic on Interstate 95 near Baltimore on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The NCAA lacrosse championship games will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens, just off I-95.

The good news is that all highway construction projects in Maryland and Virginia will be suspended during the holiday weekend.

In addition to regional travelers who told AAA that they intend to drive, 58,800 said they planned to fly during the weekend, a 3.2 percent increase over last year. Air fares are about the same as they were a year ago, AAA said.

About 59,700 people said they would travel by other means -- mostly train and bus -- an increase of 3.9 percent over last year.

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