WSF: Expect heavy traffic for Labor Day weekend

Washington State Ferries is advising travelers to expect heavy traffic during ferry sailings this Labor Day weekend.

Ferries are expected to be the busiest on westbound sailings, Thursday, Aug. 29, and Friday, Aug. 30, and on eastbound sailings, Monday, Sept. 2.

Travelers are expected to jam highways across Washington and the country this Labor Day weekend, and AAA officials said the increase is the largest since the end of the recession.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has posted best estimated travel times on I-5, I-90 and Highway 2 for the weekend and links for real-time travel information.

AAA is estimating that 34.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming Labor Day holiday. That's a 4.2 percent increase from the 32.7 million people who traveled last year.

AAA officials said the anticipated increase in holiday travel is expected to reach a new post-recession high, and is predominantly due to increased consumer confidence and spending.

• Highlights from 2013 AAA Labor Day holiday 'Travel Forecast' include:

Eighty-five percent of travelers (29.2 million) will travel by automobile, an increase of 4.3 percent from 28 million last year;

• Holiday air travel is expected to increase nearly 3 percent to 2.61 million;

• The largest share of travelers (46 percent) will depart on Friday, Aug. 30;

• The most popular date of return for holiday trips — with 43 percent planning to return — is Monday, Sept. 2;

• The average traveler is expected to travel a round-trip distance of 594 miles and spend $804;

• Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of transportation.

The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, Aug. 29, to Monday, Sept. 2.

AAA officials said gas prices won't be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day.

As of mid-August, prices were on average down by 2.7 percent per gallon compared to the same time last year.

The average price for gas on Labor Day 2012 was $3.83 per gallon, according to AAA, the most expensive average ever on record for the holiday.

The current national average price for a gallon of regular gas is $3.54, 21 cents lower than this day last year.

Locally, gas prices are down considerably compared to this time last year.

In Washington, the average price on Tuesday for regular unleaded gasoline is $3.76 per gallon, down from $4.01 on Aug. 27, 2012, and down 17 cents in the past month.

AAA is also forecasting a slight increase in air travel.

More than 2.61 million leisure travelers (8 percent) will arrive at their destination by air, a slight increase (2.8 percent) from last year’s 2.54 million air travelers.

According to the survey, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 594 miles, which is 32 miles less than last year’s average of 626 miles.

Median spending during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to grow to $804, compared to $749 last year, AAA officials noted. Travelers expect to spend 24 percent of their budget on transportation and lodging and 21 percent on food and beverages.

AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades, and AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.

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