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Smooth start to getaway Friday as Labor Day weekend begins on Long Island

Long Islanders experienced a smooth getaway Friday, as clear skies, highways and rails marked the start of the Labor Day weekend.

No major delays were reported by the state Department of Transportation or the Long Island Rail Road in near-perfect weather conditions for traveling.

More than 34 million Americans are expected to flock to the roads and skies as holiday travel numbers gradually rebound, mirroring a slow but steady job growth, travel officials said.

"Travel can be a little bit of a boost for the economy, so when we see these kinds of numbers, it serves as a leading economic indicator," said Robert Sinclair Jr. of AAA New York.

The 34.7 million projected travelers nationwide is a 1.3 percent increase over last year and the most since the economic downturn in 2008, when 45 million people traveled for the holiday, Sinclair said.

Across Long Island, state park beaches are expected to see solid attendance over the weekend.

Police in Suffolk and Nassau counties are stepping up efforts against intoxicated driving and boating, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are increasing train service for those seeking an early weekend getaway.

The LIRR plans eight additional early afternoon trains from Penn Station on Friday, including three trains each on the Babylon and Port Jefferson branches.

For beachgoers, a moderate risk for rip currents at Atlantic beaches will remain into Friday evening. The beaches at three Long Island state parks closed to swimmers on Thursday due to rough surf and dangerous currents have been reopened.

Sinclair said AAA's holiday projection shows consumer spending has surpassed income growth, indicating Americans are willing to pay for Labor Day excursions with money they don't have.

"It seems that Americans are willing to go into debt to have these final family get-togethers," Sinclair said.

Lower gas prices will help bolster the 86 percent of travelers -- about 30 million people -- expected to make their trip by car, he said.

Air travel is expected to rise 2 percent, to 14 million travelers, during the Labor Day period, according to Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation's biggest airlines.

Some people, though, might find a reason to stay close to home.

In East Hills, two contestants from the NBC hit show "The Voice," Christina Grimmie and Matthew Schuler, are slated to perform in the village's free Labor Day celebration 6 p.m. Sunday on the Great Lawn.

"You're sitting out on a lawn listening to good music, having a barbecue and avoiding the traffic," East Hills Mayor Michael Koblenz said.

The weather is expected to see highs from the upper 70s to upper 80s through Sunday and low to mid 80s on Labor Day, with cooler temperatures on the Twin Forks, according to John Murray, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton.

There is a 20 percent to 30 percent chance of showers on Sunday, increasing to 50 percent on Labor Day.

George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of state parks, said Long Island state park beaches, including Jones Beach, are expecting 150,000 visitors Saturday and 200,000 on Sunday.

But attendance is expected to drop considerably on Labor Day.

"If we get two out of three days, nice, good attendance; we'll be happy, with the forecast being rain for Monday," Gorman said.

With Lisa Irizarry

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