Local News

AAA: Cheaper gas means more holiday travel

Posted September 1, 2010 11:40 a.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2010 11:50 a.m. EDT

— About 70,000 more North Carolina residents will travel over the upcoming Labor Day weekend than a year ago, primarily because of cheaper gas, according to AAA Carolinas.

AAA said the proximity of Hurricane Earl to the Outer Banks could reduce its forecast of an 8.1 percent increase in holiday travel. Travelers heading to the coast should pay close attention to forecasts, warnings and evacuations before hitting the road, the organization said.

Gas prices statewide average $2.58 for a gallon of regular unleaded, down 11 cents from the summer peak on Aug. 11 and 16 cents lower than Memorial Day gasoline prices, AAA said.

An estimated 930,000 North Carolina residents are expected to travel during the holiday weekend, despite continued high unemployment and economic uncertainty, said David Parsons, president and chief executive of AAA Carolinas.

"Travel by Carolinians has been increasing all year, and this holds true for the last vacation of the summer," Parsons said in a statement.

Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Asheville, Raleigh, Savannah and Washington, D.C., rank as the most popular destinations, according to AAA Vacations, which tracks hotel bookings and TripTik routings.

The state Department of Transportation will suspend most road construction projects between 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Tuesday to make travel easier during the holiday.

The only exceptions are the repaving work on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, a project to replace the U.S. Highway 17 Business bridge over the New River in Jacksonville and work on the Cashie River Bridge on U.S. 17 in Bertie County, DOT officials said.

Previous work on westbound Interstate 40 in Haywood County will be halted from 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday evening, opening all four lanes near the Tennessee border, officials said.

AAA forecasts that air travel also will rise by 3.9 percent over the holiday, despite higher airfares. AAA's Leisure Travel Index reports the lowest round-trip rates are 9 percent higher this year, to an average of $179 for the top 40 U.S. air routes.