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As more than 35.5 million Americans hit the road for Labor Day weekend, they can at least enjoy relatively low gas prices while navigating what is likely to be heavy traffic.
The projected volume of travelers is the highest for the holiday since 2008, according to AAA Travel. It’s about half a million people more than last year’s holiday.
Traffic in North Georgia and metro Atlanta is expected to be particularly heavy. The holiday weekend, defined by AAA as Thursday through Monday, includes three days of the AJC Decatur Book Festival and four days of the science-fiction conference Dragon Con. Today’s events include University of Georgia afternoon game in Athens and the Chick-fil-A kickoff game tonight in the Georgia Dome featuring Auburn and Louisville. The weekend also marks Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride Weekend, celebrated throughout midtown.
Atlanta police say they estimate more than 25 events and 600,000 people in the metro area. They urge visitors to plan ahead for traffic delays, particularly near the Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park and Piedmont Park.
MARTA is offering free rides for its train and buses on Monday.
AAA predicts more than 85 percent of travelers, as many as 30 million across the nation, will drive this weekend. Gas prices are expected to be the lowest in a decade for the holiday, and vehicle travel is expected to increase by 1.1 percent over last year.
Brent Stahlheber, senior vice president of brand marketing and travel for AAA, said in a release he expects many families to use the long weekend for one more family trip this summer.
“Historically, more Americans have shown a higher tendency to travel when Labor Day weekend begins in August,” Stahlheber said. “Although this year’s holiday begins in September, AAA still expects more Labor Day travelers than last year, primarily due to low gas prices, solid income gains, rising household net worth, and an improving housing market.”
Thursday’s average price per gallon in Georgia was $2.36, or 96 cents lower than Labor Day 2014 and all Labor Day holidays in the state dating back to 2004. It was lower at many area stations (gasbuddy.com).
Drivers can count on one factor being somewhat removed from traffic patterns: construction. The Georgia Department of Transportation will suspend construction-related lane closures on Interstate highways and “heavily traveled state routes” Friday through 5 a.m. Tuesday.
“Labor Day weekend is the last holiday of the summer and we expect heavy traffic on our roads,” said Marc Mastronardi, Georgia DOE state construction engineer. “We want to make travel to Georgia’s lakes, parks and attractions easier and safer for all.”
Not all road construction will be suspended, however, and Mastronardi reminded the public to drive responsibly.
“Make sure you buckle up, put down the cellphone and do not drive distracted or impaired,” he said. “Just focus on driving.”