The long Memorial Day weekend looms like a shining star, and adding to the lure of hitting the highway are moderate temperatures, no forecast for rain and the price of gasoline, which is down significantly from last year.
Despite all of the positives for taking a road trip, the American Automobile Association predicts just a slight increase in the number of people getting behind the wheel and a decrease in overall travel from 2012 when air travel is taken into account.
The travel group says 31.2 million Americans will drive 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend, which officially began Thursday and runs through late Monday.
The figure is close to last year’s but down significantly from the more than 37 million who hit the road in 2005, The Associated Press reports.
Airline use is is expected to be at about 2.3 million, down by 8 percent from, 2012, with the sluggish economy taking the blame.
AAA President Robert Darbelnet said the “end of the payroll tax holiday on working families,” and what he termed “fee fatigue” linked to air travel are keeping a greater number of Americans out of the airports.
National reports are that the average price of gasoline is up slighty from 2012 to $3.66 per gallon, but that is not the case in this region.
The price of a gallon of regular gasoline in the Johnstown area was about $3.45 on Thursday, 20 cents lower than a year ago.
It’s the prediction of a mild, but rain-free weekend that likely will send people flocking to state parks and similar recreation sites across Pennsylvania.
Things are filled up at Prince Gallitzin State Park, outside Patton, manager Dennis Miller said.
“It looks like it’s going to be a good weekend,” Miller said. “The boats are already out and the campgrounds are going to be full.”
Prince Gallitzin has 393 camping sites plus four cottages and all are reserved, Miller said.
“There’s plenty of water, the fish are out there, some crappies, some bass, and we’re expecting a big crowd,” he said “We enjoy seeing the people coming out and having a good time.”
After rain on Wednesday and Thursday, things should clear out for the weekend, with temperatures in the upper 50s on Saturday and in the 60s on Sunday.
“There will be lots of sunshine Monday with temperatures in the mid 60s,” Erickson said.
For those who do travel this weekend, PennDOT, the state police and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are taking steps to try to assure a safe journey.
Steps are being taken to curtail as much construction on state highways as possible and the turnpike suspended work from Thursday through 6 p.m. Wednesday, spokeswoman Renee Vida Coburn said.
The revamped South Midway Plaza in Bedford County opened earlier this week and a safety break is planned for the Sideling Hill Service Plaza in Fulton County, she said.
Scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, the break will help enlighten drivers to the dangers of distracted driving, seatbelt laws and other safety tips, she said.
State and local police, in a program sponsored in conjunction with Penn-DOT, will have extra patrols on the highway watching for drunken and impaired driving, distracted driving and seat belt use.
“We want people to remember to buckle up every time,” said Pam Kane, PennDOT safety officer of the “Click it or Ticket” initiative statewide. “We want to remind people to buckle up every trip, every time.”
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