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July 4 traffic set to be highest ever, AAA predicts

Heavy traffic on the eastbound LIE just after

Heavy traffic on the eastbound LIE just after 3pm as viewed from an overpass at Glen Cove Rd. in Roslyn, June 30, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Bring plenty of fuel and patience for your Fourth of July driving over the next week.

Long Islanders will be among the highest number of travelers for the holiday since AAA began keeping records 18 years ago. A total of 46.9 million Americans are expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more.

The record-breaking annual projection from the auto club is the fifth straight year of increased travel on Independence Day weekend, at about 2.4 million, or 5.3 percent, more than last year’s holiday. To avoid the worst of the expected congestion, experts say, stay away from traveling on Tuesday.

“This Independence Day will be one for the record books,” said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr.

This year’s holiday comes with a calendar wrinkle: it falls on Wednesday, and AAA measures the travel period as Tuesday through Sunday.

The last time that happened was in 2012, and AAA projected 42.3 million people would travel that weekend.

As usual, motorists will account for 85 percent of the travel this year, or 39.7 million people, AAA said.

“Drivers will experience the worst congestion over the holiday weekend on Tuesday, July 3 in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers,” the group said in a news release.

Sinclair said this coming weekend might be the worse of the two weekends to drive, but the weekend after the holiday “should be very busy.”

“We’ve seen a jump in bookings for travel, hotels and attractions for the different combinations of days off the Wednesday holiday provides, including those who will start their trip this weekend and take the whole week,” Sinclair said.

The strong economy so far in 2018 should boost Independence Day travel even further, AAA predicts.

“Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season,” Sinclair said.

The increase in travel comes even as gasoline prices keep rising. A gallon of regular on Long Island is hovering just above $3, about 56 cents more than at this time last year, Sinclair said.

An airline industry group said bookings for the two-week period bracketing the holiday are up 3 percent year-over-year at U.S. airports.

“Generally speaking, the days leading up to July 3 and 4 are usually lighter travel days, the group said.

The Long Island Rail Road said it would run eight extra trains Tuesday afternoon from Penn Station to accommodate early departures.

Special trains that normally run on summer Fridays, including the Cannonball to Montauk and trains serving the Fire Island ferry, will also operate on Tuesday, the LIRR said. On Wednesday, railroads, subways and buses will operate on weekend schedules.

The Port Authority said it expects to accommodate more than 6 million people by air, car or rail between Friday and Wednesday. The expected 2.3 million passengers at Port Authority airports would be a 2.7 percent year-over-year increase, according to a news release.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also has made the Q70 bus linking LaGuardia Airport to subway and LIRR stations in Queens free from Tuesday to Thursday. Bridge and tunnel lane closures for maintenance and construction will be suspended from 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday morning, the MTA and Port Authority said.

The National Weather Service is predicting hot and dry weather through Independence Day.

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