Record-breaking 44 million Americans to travel for July Fourth

TY GREENLEES / STAFF
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TY GREENLEES / STAFF

A record-breaking number of travelers will hit the road in Ohio and across the U.S. for the July 4th weekend, crowding highways and airports.

More than 44 million Americans and nearly 2 million Ohio residents will travel for the holiday weekend, according to an analysis by AAA. That’s the highest July 4th travel volume on records, and represents a nearly 3 percent increase — more than 1.25 million people compared to 2016.

The holiday travel period is defined as Friday to Tuesday. This year, approximately 1.9 million Ohio residents plan to travel more than 50 miles from their home over the long holiday weekend. More than 1.6 million plan to drive to their destination, an increase of more than 3 percent compared to last year.

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“Based on traveler intent, we are on pace for record-setting travel this summer,” said AAA spokesperson Cindy Antrican. “Enthusiastic Miami Valley area travelers are joining in the travel frenzy as well.”

Traffic volumes on Ohio highways increase by about 13 percent during the holiday, and the state is working to reduce construction zones “as much as possible” during the busy travel time, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“We work with our contractors to reduce the size of work zones as much as possible during high-travel holidays,” said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray. “When you are driving in a work zone, it is important to pay extra attention to signs and speed limits.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation will invest $2.3 billion into the state’s bridges and roads, slightly less than the record $2.4 billion spent in 2014 and 2015. Approximately 1,098 projects will be conducted, including 26 major projects.

More than 6,945 miles of roadway will be paved this year, according to the state. ODOT said 191 projects are aimed at making roadways in Ohio safer, adding additional signage and signals to reconfigured intersections. Some construction will be unavoidable, officials say, and they are encouraging travelers to check their route before their trip begins.

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"This increase in traffic means drivers need to be a little more courteous and patient behind the wheel," Wray said. "The best way to avoid frustrating traffic delays is to check the OHGO app before you head out the door. You can see live traffic speeds, traffic cameras, and construction project information on the app. It is a great tool for anyone traveling to and through Ohio."

The top travel destinations here locally? A survey from AAA found most people are heading to these top destinations: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Gettysburg, Penn.; Ft. Walton Beach/Destin, Fla.; Hershey, Penn.; and in and around Ohio.

Drivers will also see some of the lowest gas prices this weekend since 2005, paying an average of $2.21 per gallon. That’s well under the 10-year average of $3.14, according to Gas Buddy. Even though average gas prices are at historic lows, the price variance “spread” in industry parlance in gas prices in any given city on July 4 will be at historic highs,” said Patrick DeHaan, a GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst, in a statement.

“Most importantly, motorists are getting a well-deserved break at the pump after years of high summer gas prices,” DeHaan said. “This is like Christmas in July instead of seeing fireworks at the pumps like we saw just a few short years ago.”

This weekend is also one of the busiest times for flight travel as well, according to RewardExpert’s 2017 Independence Day Air Travel Forecast. Local aviation expert Jay Ratliff told this newspaper that travelers should check with their air carrier to rule out delays before heading to the airport this weekend.

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And, RewardExpert’s forecast found that the Friday and Saturday before the holiday tend to have the most delays and cancellations, while data show flights have fewer delays, cancellations or disruptions on July 4. If travelers have flexibility with their trips, they should plan accordingly.

“Travelers who choose to fly instead of drive over the Independence Day travel period are looking to travel somewhere far or get to their destination quickly,” said Roman Shteyn, RewardExpert CEO and co-founder. “If timing is important to you, be mindful of the carrier you’re flying with and the dates you choose to travel.”