Westbound traffic on the Long Island Expressway is heavy after...

Westbound traffic on the Long Island Expressway is heavy after the Memorial Day weekend in Nassau, May 25, 2015. Credit: Uli Seit

The Port Authority is expecting a 3.5 percent jump in vehicle traffic on its bridges and tunnels over the Fourth of July weekend as lower gas prices this year are expected to fuel a travel surge.

The bistate agency says 3.9 million vehicles will cross its six area bridges and tunnels between Wednesday and Monday. There were 3.7 million vehicle trips on them during the same period last year, it said.

The AAA motorist group is predicting that about 41.9 million Americans will take a trip of at least 50 miles this weekend, up from 41 million last year. The group defines this year's holiday weekend as beginning Wednesday and running through Sunday.

Long Islanders who stay close to home might be in for some traffic headaches.

There has been traffic gridlock around Sunken Meadow State Park during prior Fourth of July weekends, and park officials are warning motorists to expect heavy traffic Saturday on local roads and state parkways serving the park and its beach.

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said Sunken Meadow parking lots may reach capacity and be closed at times. The agency recommended Heckscher State Park in East Islip as an alternative.

However, the state Department of Transportation said there would be no lane closures for construction from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.

For those seeking an early getaway, the Long Island Rail Road will add 10 eastbound afternoon trains Wednesday, and the 5:09 p.m. eastbound train that normally ends at Speonk will continue to Montauk, making local stops from Babylon to Montauk, the LIRR said.

Gas prices on Long Island are about $1 per gallon cheaper this year than last, and AAA cites that as a major reason for the uptick in auto travel.

Prices for regular grade at gas stations across Long Island Tuesday averaged a tick above $3, according to several websites that track prices.

"Independence Day gas prices are expected to be the lowest in at least five years, a welcome sign for the 35.5 million people planning a holiday road trip," said Robert Sinclair, AAA regional spokesman.

The Port Authority said it expects about 2 million passengers to use its airports from Wednesday through Sunday, up about 2.8 percent from last year. The average airfare is up 6 percent, to $227, this year, the AAA said.

On Saturday, the Fourth of July fireworks show returns to Jones Beach after a five-year absence, but motorists will no longer be permitted to park on the shoulder of Ocean Parkway or other major roadways, officials said.

George Gorman, regional director for state parks, said traffic at Jones Beach was expected to get heavy about 6 p.m., and again after the show, which begins at 9:30 p.m. Motorists also can expect heightened monitoring for drunken and impaired driving and boating this weekend, officials said.

CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information provided by the Port Authority. the percentage increase in vehicle traffic on its bridges and tunnels this Fourth of July holiday weekend was incorrect in an earlier version. 

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