Memorial Day travelers hit slick Hudson Valley roads for holiday getaway

Traffic moves along I-287 through White Plains, as Traffic moves along I-287 through White Plains, as seen from the Lake Street overpass. (May 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

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Hudson Valley fun-seekers looking to get a jump on the Memorial Day Weekend were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on at times rain-slicked roads Friday, while rail and air travel was moving smoothly.

Most of the Saw Mill River Parkway was closed Friday morning after rain deluged the region, and detoured traffic jammed the rush hour commute on the Taconic State Parkway and I-684. By 11 a.m., however, the traffic on the Saw Mill was beginning to move, as the parkway's northbound stretch between exits 20 and 21 in Elmsford was reopened, the state department of transportation said. The Saw Mill remained closed between the Farragut Parkway and Lawrence Street in Dobbs Ferry.

Minor traffic accidents were reported across the Hudson Valley. While floodwaters are subsiding, the rain is expected to last at least through Saturday night, meaning travelers should give themselves extra time.

"Probably the best thing is to get an early start," said Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for the American Automobile Association.

Although the downpours that marked Thursday night were absent Friday, intermittent rain will continue through Saturday night, National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina said. By the time the storm system clears, up to an inch of rain may soak the area.

News12 meteorologist Brysen Van Eck said he doesn't expect the rain to add to the flooding.

"The heavy downpours are pretty much out of the way," he said.

Still, as a precaution, Yonkers was providing sandbags for residents living in flood-prone areas. They're available at the Yonkers Organic Waste Yard on Nepperhan Avenue until 7 p.m. on Friday and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said.

METRO-NORTH ADDS 23 'GETAWAY' TRAINS

At midday Friday, Service on Metro-North was running smoothly, as the railroad added extra trains to cope with the anticipated spike in passengers.

Metro-North, expecting rail travelers to quit work early and head out starting around noon today, shuffled its schedule to accommodate the rush.

The railroad added 23 "getaway" trains out of Grand Central Terminal on its Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines, all leaving between noon and about 4 p.m. Friday. It also added an outbound getaway train on its west-of-Hudson Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines on Friday, as well as an extra inbound afternoon train on Monday.

Some peak-period afternoon and evening service out of Grand Central has been canceled to free up trains for the earlier getaway.

Metro-North was expecting a 170 percent spike in outbound riders from Grand Central between noon and 4 p.m. Friday, necessitating the extra trains, spokesman Aaron Donovan said Thursday. That will be offset by a 31 percent drop in ridership during the traditional 4-8 p.m. "rush hour" period, he said.

The railroad will operate on its normal weekend schedules Saturday and Sunday, and will operate on a Sunday schedule on Monday.

No lingering effects are expected from the recent derailment and collision in Bridgeport, Conn., Donovan said.

"Everything is back up and normal service has been restored," he said.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said the railroad was expecting an increase in ridership, but not enough to require extra trains. "We're not going to be making any adjustments to schedules," Cole said. "Seats are available."

The complete modified Metro-North schedule can be found on the MTA's website.

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AAA PREDICTS FEWER TO HIT THE ROADS

The AAA is projecting 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend, down a tick from last year's 35.1 million and way off the record of 44 million set in 2005, but enough to keep roads clogged in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

Sinclair attributed the expected dip to the sluggish pace of the economic recovery.

"People are pulling back slightly in what they're spending," he said.

Locally, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey expects 3.2 million travelers to use its tunnels and bridges this weekend, the agency said, adding that it will have "a full complement" of toll collectors on duty to help push traffic through the crossings.

The Port Authority also is offering cellphone and email traffic alerts to those who sign up at http://btt.paalerts.com.

Further up the Hudson River, the state Bridge Authority was expecting "some uptick, but nothing too substantial" on its five crossings, said spokesman John Bellucci.

"We expect some increase, but in reality, most of our bridges are local bridges," he added.

The Bridge Authority administers the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle bridges.

GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY

The Port Authority is expecting its three major airports to handle more than 1.5 million passengers between Friday and Tuesday, an increase of 1.4 percent over last year. Of these, about 690,000 will use Kennedy Airport, 450,000 will travel through Newark-Liberty Airport, and 360,000 will pass through LaGuardia Airport, the agency said. Traveler alerts are available at www.airportinfoalerts.com.

Stewart International Airport in New Windsor will serve about 4,000 travelers during that time, the Port Authority said.

Westchester County Airport in Harrison doesn't project passenger totals, but the airport's assistant manager, Steve Ferguson, said he was seeing "a little bump in passenger boardings so far" on Thursday and expected a busy weekend.

"(Thursday night) will be a getaway night, and Friday night will be as well," Ferguson said. "Then people will be coming back Sunday night, Monday night and even into Tuesday morning."

Ferguson advised fliers to get to the airport at least an hour and a half before their scheduled departure times.

Flights at JFK, LaGuardia, Newark and Stewart airports Friday morning were reporting on-time arrivals and departures, though the Federal Aviation Administration warned that flights headed to Philadelphia were experiencing delays averaging 43 minutes due to inclement weather.

Westchester County Airport also was reporting on-time arrivals and departures, though authorities recommended travelers not take any chances as the holiday weekend unfolds.

"People should get to the airport with plenty of time," said Donna Greene, a Westchester County spokeswoman.

With The Associated Press

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