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Labor Day weekend commute off to smooth start on Long Island

Getaway Friday went smoothly for most Long Island residents.

As 35.5 million Americans began to set out on their Labor Day weekend escape, including a good number from Nassau and Suffolk counties, evening traffic was light across Long Island after a slow and congested afternoon.

The state Department of Transportation websites that monitor traffic and road conditions -- and -- posted no major traffic accidents or delays as of 7 p.m.

But highways were jammed in Nassau County and Queens.

As more Long Island residents began their travels during the afternoon, cars on the Southern State Parkway and the Long Island Expressway snaked along in heavy traffic from Dix Hills and West Babylon to Brooklyn in both directions, according to 511NY.

At about 3 p.m., a disabled vehicle on the Southern State Parkway near exit 20, in Hempstead, closed one eastbound lane for about 40 minutes. At about 5 p.m., two minor accidents on the South State Parkway, one near exit 30 in North Massapequa and the other between exits 17 and 18 in Lakeview, closed one lane each for about a half hour.

Sunrise Highway also saw heavy traffic in both directions between West Babylon and Freeport into the evening. The Northern State Parkway was slow between Laurel Hollow and Roslyn.

Most of the traffic toward the East End from earlier in the day had been resolved by about 4 p.m. and save for a few small stretched, 511NY reported that traffic on the Southern State Parkway and Long Island Expressway was moving smoothly by 7 p.m.

Flights heading to the Washington area, a popular Labor Day travel destination, were delayed out of LaGuardia and Kennedy airports due to weather and potential thunderstorms in the mid-Atlantic. Planes to Baltimore-Washington airport were delayed 1 hour and 30 minutes and takeoff for planes traveling to Reagan Airport was pushed back 2 hours and 45 minutes, according to an FAA alert sent out at about 4:30 p.m.

This weekend marks the greatest number of travelers for the September holiday since 2008, according to AAA Northeast's New York region, and most of them will be driving.

The travel group's recent getaway forecast said the 35.5 million expected to travel 50 miles or more for the extended weekend marks a 1 percent increase from last year. Of those, 86 percent are expected to drive, AAA Northeast said.

Starting Thursday and through Monday -- which AAA Northeast defines as the holiday travel period -- about 2.64 million will travel by air, and another 2.42 million will travel by some other means including train, bus or boat.

"Cheap gas, strong new vehicle sales and an improved household economy continue to motivate travelers to take a trip, continuing the strong road travel in a year that has seen Americans drive more than 3 trillion miles," said Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for AAA Northeast, New York region.

Gasoline nationwide averages $2.53 a gallon, 90 cents cheaper than this period a year ago, and the lowest for the holiday since $1.85 in 2004.

Across Nassau and Suffolk counties the average price per gallon, according to the, is $2.61, more than $1 cheaper than in 2014.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has suspended all state road and bridge construction projects with temporary lane closures between 6 a.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to the governor's office. State transportation officials said the decision was made to minimize road congestion.

The Port Authority will also fully staff all toll booths and halt Bayonne Bridge construction between 5 a.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to a release. Officials expect to see 2.6 million vehicles pass through the Port Authority's four interstate bridges and two tunnels.

For those traveling by train, the Long Island Rail Road is offering 10 extra afternoon trains departing Penn Station Friday.

A Port Authority spokeswoman said officials anticipate a 1.1 percent increase in passengers at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports over last year's holiday weekend. About 1.72 million passengers are expected to fly in and out between Friday and Tuesday, and officials cautioned travelers who plan to park at LaGuardia to allow extra time to find a space.

Some of the top spots for Labor Day vacationers include Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Orlando, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Washington, D.C., AAA Northeast said.

Travelers can sign up for the Port Authority's airport alerts service or download the 511NY app to keep track of area traffic and delays.

With Gary Dymski

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