EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 29, 2013

AAA predicts heavy weekend traffic

AAA: Traffic will be heavy this Labor Day weekend

By Alex Lippa

---- — Don’t expect it to be easy to get from one place to another this weekend.

An AAA spokesman said he expects this Labor Day weekend will be the most heavily traveled in New England since 2008.

“It has to do with the economic recovery,” said Pat Moody of AAA of Northern New England. “The indicators we’re looking at all are showing that people are willing to travel.”

Moody estimates 1.2 million people in New England will travel more than 50 miles from home this weekend. That is 4.4 percent more than last year.

“We’ve anticipated an increase due to consumer spending, a lower unemployment rate and an improving housing market,” Moody said.

Tai Freligh, communications manager at the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism, said Labor Day is the second most traveled holiday of the year, just behind July 4.

“We’re expecting people to get in that last beach trip or boating trip this weekend,” Freligh said. “The number of people expected to come keeps growing every year. New Hampshire is a perfect place to take a vacation to. “

Freligh estimates 545,000 visitors will come to the Granite State from out of state, up 1 percent from last year They are expected to spend $78 million, up 2 percent from last year.

Freligh said he especially expects more Canadians to visit New Hampshire, due to tax-free shopping and new higher duty-free limits.

Massachusetts is expecting lots of travelers, too.

“This has been a strong season for Massachusetts tourism, and Labor Day weekend should be great weather and have lots of activity,” said Betsy Wall, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

This summer, Massachusetts has seen a 4 percent increase in lodging revenue over last summer.

One thing that might not be a factor is gas prices. The average price of gas in New England is $3.62 per gallon, 10 cents lower than a year ago.

But, Moody said, he doesn’t expect savings at the pump to put more people on the road.

“Gas prices typically aren’t a large part of someone’s travel budget,” he said. “It may be enough to encourage a few last-minute travelers, but generally an increase or decrease in gas prices doesn’t make a huge difference.”

AAA estimates 88 percent of travelers will drive to their destinations this weekend, meaning there isn’t much of an effect at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

“We anticipate a busy weekend, but it won’t be much different than a regular weekend,” airport spokesman Tom Malafronte said. “Most people are driving wherever they are going.”

On state highways, it’s a different story. New Hampshire State Police Lt. Christopher Wagner said travelers should expect delays this weekend.

“People are expected to flood the roadways,” Wagner said. “We are looking at parts of (Interstate) 93 that are heavily constructed and are natural bottlenecks. Motorists will likely be more inconvenienced than a typical weekend.”

Wagner said the police will identify several spots around the state to increase patrols.

“We will be on the lookout for people who are impaired,” Wagner said. “When you have family gatherings and festivities during a long weekend, it comes with a rise in incidences.”

AAA expects tomorrow will be the busiest travel day.

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is preparing for big sales this weekend. Richard Gerrish, the director of sales and marketing, said sales are expected to be 6 to 10 percent higher than last year.