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Memorial Day traffic ramps up across LI

Team Oracle aerobatic pilot, Sean Tucker, left, takes

Team Oracle aerobatic pilot, Sean Tucker, left, takes Newsday's Meghan Glynn under his wing as she learns about loops, rolls and other stunts that spectators will see at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach. (May 21, 2013) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Long Island motorists should expect to share the road with a deluge of holiday weekend visitors.

That's because most of New York's Memorial Day travelers will hit the road, experts said.

"Overwhelmingly people are traveling by automobile" for the holiday weekend, said Robert Sinclair, AAA New York spokesman. This year, 89 percent of travelers are expected to drive to their destination, he said.

Island tourism this weekend looks to be robust, and regional beaches, parks and attractions have largely reopened after the blow from superstorm Sandy.

Still, driving will not be the only way to get to the beach this summer because the Long Island Rail Road is offering nonstop train service from Penn Station to the Hamptons on weekends.

Island tourism groups said pre-bookings at hotels for the weekend have jumped significantly over last year. "We're going to have a really, really strong season," said Bryan DeLuca, executive director of the East End Tourism Alliance.

He noted that the Hyatt hotel in Riverhead, where he is the executive director, is 100 percent booked for the three-day weekend.

He said some people may choose to come to Long Island instead of going to the Sandy-impacted Jersey shore.

In the first quarter of 2013, hotel bookings in Nassau and Suffolk were at 72.3 percent, up from 57.7 percent a year ago, Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing director Kristen Matejka said. That trend is predicted to continue with strong pre-booking figures this weekend.

However, the normal clogging of Island roads as revelers head to the beach depends on the weather, the state transportation department said, and the forecast for the next few days is wet.

"Every year it's almost the same," said Lee Koppelman, director for the Center of Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University. "In part, the volume of traffic is going to depend on the weather."

In an effort to ease congestion, the state Department of Transportation said construction-related travel lane closures on all state roads will be suspended between 3 p.m. Friday until late Monday evening. Roads will be closed only for emergencies.

But bridge work will continue on the Southern State Parkway over Sunrise Highway in Islip Terrace, Pinelawn Road over the Long Island Expressway in Melville, and Great Neck Road over Sunrise Highway in West Babylon, the department said.

The Suffolk County Police Department said DWI patrols will be stepped up this weekend and will include sobriety checkpoints.

"We may set up some checkpoints where we channel traffic through a single-file lane and check to make sure drivers have not been drinking," said assistant chief of patrol Stuart Cameron.

Long Islanders gassing up at a Farmingdale Hess station on Thursday noted that Memorial Day weekend traffic seemed to get an early start this year.

"Yesterday was the worst day I've ever seen," said Tim Matthews, 53, who commutes across the Island doing installations for windows.

"I left Brooklyn at 10:30 last night and it was like rush-hour traffic. I've been late for two appointments today. . . . I'd hate to see today on the expressway at 4 o'clock."

Matthews said he's thankful to be working the long weekend. "I'd hate to travel this weekend," he said. "I think it's gonna be ridiculous."

ROAD WORK SUSPENDED

Construction-related travel lane closures on all state roads will be suspended between 3 p.m. Friday until late Monday evening. The recently reopened Ocean Parkway and Robert Moses Causeway also will be open this weekend.

However, round-the-clock single lane closures for bridge repairs at these locations remain in effect:

Southern State/Heckscher Parkway over NY Route 27/Sunrise Highway in Islip Terrace

Pinelawn Road over the LIE/I-495 in Melville

Great Neck Road over NY Route 27/Sunrise Highway in West Babylon

Source: State Department of Transportation's Long Island district

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