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Hudson Valley traffic expected to be heavy for Memorial Day return

The Saw Mill River Parkway as seen from

The Saw Mill River Parkway as seen from the Odell Avenue overpass in Yonkers. (Nov. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

With Memorial Day weekend coming to a close, travelers now face the return trip home, often made longer by snarling traffic that's expected on major Hudson Valley thoroughfares Monday night.

Some 34.8 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles to return home from their Memorial Day destinations -- and 89 percent of them will be traveling by car, according to a recent AAA Travel report. Americans are expected to travel an average of 690 miles for the holiday weekend, almost 50 miles more than last year's average. And because AAA expects air travel to be down 8 percent compared to this time last year, not only should drivers expect heavier-than-usual traffic on their way back to the Hudson Valley, but they might encounter it for longer stretches.

Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA New York, told Newsday Westchester that, in addition to Interstate 95 and other major highways, the Cross County, Saw Mill River and Taconic State parkways can be trouble spots for Memorial Day travelers.

"The Cross County Parkway is a problem because there's a lot of traffic," Sinclair said. "We did a lighting survey a year or so ago, and found that most of the lights on that roadway are out, so you've got a safety situation there when people are traveling after dark."

The flow on the busy Saw Mill River and the Taconic State parkways is hindered by cars entering from side streets, Sinclair said. The Saw Mill is especially prone to tie-ups because drivers may have to stop several times.

"[Drivers] are whipping along at 50-plus miles per hour on that highway, and then all of a sudden you've got traffic lights at an intersection due to poorly engineered roads," he said.

Elsewhere in Westchester, drivers heading west may hit delays on the Hutchinson River Parkway near Pelham Manor, and on Interstate 95 near the county's border with the Bronx, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Adding to the issue is construction, which slowed travel Monday afternoon in Yonkers, specifically along Route 100 and Yonkers Avenue, according to News12.

Sinclair offered one tip that may help drivers circumvent traffic: Navigation devices often can help drivers avoid highways that clog during holiday travel.

"There are lots of roads that parallel those [highways]," he said. "GPS is a wonder at helping you find those things and getting around the traffic."

Sinclair said the worst time on Memorial Day to head back to the Empire State is just after rush hour, "from 6 p.m. to midnight." He advised travelers to stay calm and enjoy the ride, even if it's slowed to a crawl.

"You have to pack your patience," he added, "and whatever entertainment you have, [whether] it's a Waylon Jennings CD or your iPod full of 10,000 songs."

Metro-North service was running on a Sunday schedule Monday, meaning fewer trains were in service compared to the typical Monday commute. That could mean more crowded cars as the sun starts to set on the holiday weekend.

"Things have been running smoothly with only brief interruptions," Metro-North spokesman Sal Arena told Newsday Westchester. "There will be no immediate ridership numbers available [Monday], but I think it's fair to say that with the best weather day of the holiday weekend, it will be a busy Memorial [Day], whether folks are just heading out for the day or wrapping up a weekend upstate later on a return trip to the city."

No lingering effects from the recent train derailment and collision in Bridgeport, Conn., were expected, according to fellow Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan.

Arrivals and departures at Westchester County Airport in Harrison were running on time as of early Monday afternoon, according to the airport's website.

And unlike the start of Memorial Day weekend, it appears weather won't compound the problem for travelers who are heading home to the Hudson Valley. On Friday morning, much of the Saw Mill was closed after rain flooded the region, detouring much of that traffic to the Taconic State Parkway and I-684.

Memorial Day in the Hudson Valley should remain sunny and clear for the rest of Monday, with an overnight low temperature of 49, according to News12 meteorologist Brysen Van Eck. Tuesday should start off dry, with showers and scattered thunderstorms expected throughout the day, with a high of 66 degrees, according to Van Eck.

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