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AAA: 44.2 million, most in cars, hitting road over weekend

More than 44.2 million travelers, mostly motorists, will

More than 44.2 million travelers, mostly motorists, will travel over the July Fourth holiday weekend, according to AAA. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The weather forecast is iffy, but the travel outlook is rosy for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Americans are expected to continue to set travel records this weekend with more than 44.2 million taking a trip of 50 miles or more, according to AAA Northeast.

That is 2.9 percent higher than last year’s estimate of 41.9 million, which was higher than the 41 million the year before that, the automobile club said.

The traditional getaway day, Friday, should be a mixture of sun and clouds, but those waiting until later in the day may get hit with showers and thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service.

Those returning Tuesday, the holiday, also face of chance of showers, the weather service said. AAA defines the holiday as Friday through Tuesday.

Most of the travel this weekend, about 85 percent, will be by automobile, the auto club said.

However, airline travel also is increasing, and the airline industry is predicting a 4 percent increase in worldwide air travel this summer.

The Port Authority projects that more than 5 million people will travel by air, car and rail at the agency’s transportation facilities this weekend. That’s a 2.3 percent increase from last year’s Fourth of July holiday period, the authority said.

The agency warned travelers to brace for delays this weekend at LaGuardia Airport, which is about one year into a 10-year reconstruction project that has snarled traffic on airport roads.

It advised travelers to use mass transit, if possible, to get to the airport, consider dropping off passengers at the arrivals level if the departures level is full, and check the availability of parking ahead of time.

Airlines for America, an industry group, predicted there will be 234.1 million airline passengers between June 1 and Aug. 31, up from 224.8 million last summer.

“A steadily improving economy, all-time high household net worth and low airfares are fueling the expected growth in summer air travel,” the group said in a statement.

Robert Sinclair of AAA Northeast cited similar reasons for the growth in all travel sectors.

“The strong economy, increased employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, along with lower airfares and cheaper rental cars, are responsible for the increased number of travelers,” Sinclair said.

A gallon of regular gas is about 10 cents less than it was a year ago, AAA said, and prices around Long Island this week averaged about $2.40 a gallon.

In addition to the weather, there is another gloomy note: AAA Northeast said it expects 338,000 calls for help this weekend from motorists stranded by flat tires, dead batteries and other problems.

The Long Island Rail Road will provide additional early-afternoon service from Manhattan on Friday for customers planning an early getaway. The LIRR will operate the same extra service Monday.

The traditional fireworks celebration of Independence Day at Jones Beach State Park will begin at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and parks officials are warning there could be “heavy” traffic by about 6 p.m.

If the parking lots at Jones Beach become full, drivers will be directed away from the park, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said in a statement.

Motorists on the Meadowbrook and Wantagh parkways will be sent to Merrick Road, while those on Ocean Parkway at Tobay Beach will be turned around and sent away from Jones Beach, the statement said.

For traffic updates, drivers can tune into: WALK 97.5 and KJOY 98.3.

“There will be no shoulder of the road parking in the event parking fields fill to capacity,” the statement added.

With Joan Gralla

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