Traffic on the Long Island Expressway between exits 59 and 58...

Traffic on the Long Island Expressway between exits 59 and 58 in Islandia on Thursday, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. Credit: James Carbone

Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile this Memorial Day weekend, officials are predicting an increase in travel as people continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

AAA Northeast expects 37 million travelers nationwide will take a trip of 50 miles or more this weekend, 34 million of whom will drive to their destination. That is up 60% from last year, when only 23 million people took a vacation, the nonprofit club said.

"Folks are just itching to get out there and do things," said Robert Sinclair Jr., a AAA Northeast spokesman.

With so many people on the road, AAA Northeast predicts more than 7,000 AAA members will break down over the holiday weekend within New York City, Long Island and Westchester. Drivers are advised to have their vehicles serviced by a technician before heading out.

And after the Colonial Pipeline was briefly shut down due to a ransomware cyberattack, leading to long lines at gas stations in parts of the country this month, AAA Northeast said in a statement that gasoline prices have stabilized but "at a point many drivers find difficult to afford."

The average gas price nationally is $3.03 per gallon, the AAA Gas website reported, while on Long Island the price averages $3.06 and $3.18 in New York City.

In New York, temporary lane closures for road and bridge construction projects on state highways will be suspended beginning Friday morning until Tuesday morning, the state Department of Transportation said.

Suffolk County police will deploy more officers on the roads and the waters this weekend, looking for impaired, unlicensed and unsafe drivers.

"Our entire department wants Suffolk County to enjoy this weekend and enjoy this summer," said acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron during a news conference Friday in Great River. "But we want them to do so safely. And the members of our department will be out in force to ensure that happens."

Cameron said a high number of residents purchased boats for the first time during the pandemic last year, leading to a high number of accidents from novice operators. With the weather expected to be rough this weekend, Cameron urged new vessel operators to drive safely and with enough personal flotation devices for all passengers.

"Just because you can drive a car doesn’t mean you can safely operate a marine vessel," he said.

Meanwhile, officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Long Island Rail Road’s parent organization, are encouraging people to use mass transit.

The LIRR’s "Cannonball," an afternoon express service train to the Hamptons from Penn Station, will resume Friday, LIRR president Phillip Eng said at a May 21 news conference in Long Beach.

Kennedy, LaGuardia and other airports run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey anticipate more than 920,000 passengers this weekend, the agency said. The Port Authority also runs Newark Liberty International Airport and Stewart International Airport in Orange County.

The Transportation Security Administration has recently added two new technologies at selected airports, which TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said include Kennedy, LaGuardia and Long Island MacArthur in Ronkonkoma. Credential authentication technology will allow passengers to scan their own identification to complete the identity verification process, the TSA said, while computed tomography gives TSA officers the ability to review a 3D image of passengers’ bags and reduce searching them.

Sinclair said he expects people to fly, in particular, to popular destinations such as the Caribbean, Las Vegas and Orlando. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance April 2 to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward.

And for those who haven’t made their travel plans yet, Sinclair says they may be in luck.

"I hear from our travel agents that a lot of folks are kind of waiting until the last minute to make plans but things are available," he said.

With Robert Brodsky

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