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May 22, 2014

More Americans hitting road for Memorial Day Weekend

TERRE HAUTE — If American Automobile Association’s forecast hold true, this Memorial Day weekend could see the highest number of travelers since 2005.

AAA is forecasting that 36.1 million people are expected to travel, either by automobile, air or other methods. That is an increase of 1.5 percent from last year, and marks the third consecutive year of traveler growth, according to AAA’s 2014 Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast.

The number of people traveling by automobile is expected to increase 1.2 percent from last year, with 31.8 million travelers. Gasoline prices are expected to be “relatively similar to one year ago for the holiday,” AAA reports. Gas prices on Memorial Day in 2013 averaged $3.63 per gallon.

While air travel is forecast to be up 2.4 percent, with 2.6 million people expected to fly to a holiday destination, it is just 7.1 percent of the total holiday travel. Eighty-eight percent of travelers will reach their destination via automobile.

An improved economic outlook could be the reason for the slight traveling increase, according to AAA.

“Consumer comfort, consumer sediment and consumer confidence surveys all show improvement compared to year ago levels,” the AAA reports states. The forecast reports a 3.4 percent national increase in personal income and 8 percent increase in household net worth over last year as other factors for the increase number of travelers.

AAA defines holiday travel as trips that include travel 50 miles or more away from home during the five-day period from Thursday through Monday (May 22 to May 26).

Motorists should be aware that 10,000 law enforcement agencies are participating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign for motorists not using a seat belt. That program runs through June 1.

“We want people to have fun and arrive at their destination safety, but most of all we want them to buckle up, slow down and drive sober,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts. “That incorporates short or long travel. There are construction zones out. When you approach them, slow down… there will be some lane restrictions.

“Also, this is the weekend for the Indianapolis 500, so there will be extra traffic” on Indiana roadways, Watts said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation at noon today will initiate a road work moratorium until the morning hours of May 27 to allow a safer and more efficient holiday travel weekend, said Debbie Calder, INDOT spokesperson for the Crawfordsville District.

 “Wherever possible, road restrictions will be removed to ease traffic flow for the influx of holiday drivers. Some closures and restrictions will remain on larger projects that cannot be safely reopened to traffic for the weekend,” Calder said.

 Restrictions in Vigo County will remain on Interstate 70 to one 11-foot lane in each direction between the 1.5 mile marker to just west of the Wabash River bridge while work is underway on the eastbound interstate bridges over Sugar Creek and Clear Creek.

 That project is scheduled to be completed Oct. 15, 2015. HIS Constructors Inc. was awarded a $7 million contract for the bridge deck replacement project for the Sugar Creek and Clear Creek bridges.

 In Clay County,  I-70 is restricted to one 10-foot lane in the eastbound lanes over Indiana 59 for a bridge deck overly and resurfacing project. Westbound lanes will be open starting at 10 a.m. today. This project starts at Indiana 59 and goes nearly 6 miles east.

 That work was awarded to Reith-Riley Construction for $9.3 million. It is slated for completion Sept. 30.

 On U.S. 41 in Vigo County, a left turn at Johnson Drive is prohibited. Wabash Valley Asphalt Inc. was awarded at $2.3 million project to improve the intersections of U.S. 41 at Johnson Drive and at Davis Drive, plus add an additional through lane southbound from Johnson Drive to Davis Drive, Calder said.

 This project also adds left turn lanes for both northbound and southbound traffic at Davis Drive. The roadway will be resurfaced and a center curb will be added along the length of the project.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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