Memorial Day Travel Could Drop Due to Gas Prices, Sequester Furloughs

AAA: Expected decrease in travel could be linked to gas prices and furloughs

If you’re headed to the beach this Memorial Day weekend, expect a lot of company: 366,000 vehicles are expected to cross the Bay Bridge this weekend.

Transportation officials are advising anyone going to and from the Eastern Shore to travel during off-peak times. They said the best times to travel on the Bay Bridge this weekend will generally be before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

News4's Megan McGrath reported around 5:30 a.m. Friday that crossing the Bridge at that time was smooth sailing -- so to speak.

If you're planning to cross, though, pay special attention to new lane markings and rumble strips on the Bay Bridge’s westbound span, said the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).

Travelers should also be warned that the Maryland House travel plaza closed for renovations last September and isn't expected to reopen until this fall or winter. You can still visit the Chesapeake House for a respite from driving.

More than 1.8 million drivers are expected to hit the road over Memorial Day weekend, said Maryland transportation officials, although the number of travelers could be a bit lower than previous years.

While Maryland officials said travel will increase, a AAA survey claims the opposite, predicting 5,000 fewer drivers will be on the roads than in previous years.

AAA's estimate would mark a 2 percent decrease in travel for the region overall -- a drop that could be linked to gas prices and sequester-related furloughs.

With strong ties to the local government, the region is feeling the effects of the budget battle on Capitol Hill. Lost pay for federal workers means many will be staying home, although AAA’s survey was conducted when many workers were facing 22 furlough days, a number that has been cut down at many agencies.

“It’s affected my whole budget. I can’t do things that I used to,” said one would-be traveler. He's planning to spend the holiday weekend in his back yard.

“There’s no money,” said another non-traveler. “Furlough, gas prices, everything.”

Even so, more than 437,000 drivers will travel on Interstate 95 and more than 459,500 will take the Fort McHenry Tunnel between Friday and Monday. (While I-95 between Fredericksburg and Richmond was congested early Friday, it was due to overnight paving that was set to end at 6 a.m.)

And nationally, increased Memorial Day travel might be a trend. recently released its summer 2013 travel survey, which found that 30 percent of its 1,200 U.S. respondents are planning on traveling this weekend. That figure represents a six-percent rise in prospective travelers from last year’s survey.

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