Traffic builds on the westbound Long Island Expressway, approaching Exit 39...

Traffic builds on the westbound Long Island Expressway, approaching Exit 39 on July 5, 2021, in Old Westbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

This July Fourth weekend looks like a traffic blockbuster despite high gas prices, inflation, and the yet-to-relent pandemic.

A new record of 42 million cars are expected to hit the roads, Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman in the Garden City office of AAA Northeast said Monday.

There are 47.9 million Americans  —  the second-highest-ever total –  planning trips of at least 50 miles, whether by car, boat or plane, according to a statement by the non-profit federation of auto clubs.

“It just seems like nothing is affecting these people, at least for the Fourth of July,” Sinclair said . “Day by day, they may be suffering and making concessions to high gas prices, but for the holiday, forget it.”

The list of New York’s usual choke points on the roads is led by the western Belt Parkway. Traffic there could pop 142% above normal on the stretch from Cohancy Street in Queens to Interstate 278 on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., according to the AAA.

"Drivers will see the most traffic Thursday and Friday," the AAA said. 

New Yorkers also are likely to be stuck in traffic jams on:

  • Interstate 278, south, from Exit 35, for the LIE, to 22, for the Belt Parkway
  • The Long Island Expressway, east, from Exit 32, for Little Neck Parkway, to 13, for Long Island City
  • The Long Island Expressway, west, from Exit 44, for Seaford and Syosset, to 16, for Long Island City.
  • The Belt Parkway, west, from Junction 17, for the Cross Bay Boulevard, Woodhaven and the Rockaways, to Exit 13, for Rockaway Parkway

Aiming to smooth trips on its systems, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week vowed to add extra trains to the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.

The number of travelers this July 4th weekend tops 2021's total of 46.2 million — which was a remarkable turnaround from the plunge to 34.2 million in 2020, AAA data shows. In 2019, 49 million took trips.  

Gas prices, running around $4.90 a gallon, have never been this expensive on July Fourth, according to the AAA. Last year, New Yorkers paid around $2.50 less per gallon in the week ending July 7, the Energy Information Administration said.

The number of cars on the road will exceed the 41.8 million in 2021 — a rebound from 32.5 million in 2020 — and be about a half a million more than 2019, the AAA said. It is expecting 446,000 calls for emergency road service.

Overall, travelers have caused total reservations for flights, car rentals, cruises, hotels and tours in the United States to skyrocket 60% – and climb 252% overseas.

“Being cooped up for two years will do it to you,” Sinclair said.

Brian Henn, one of the owners of LBAC Travel in Sayville, said travel has been rising since last year, and now "demand is off the charts."  All-inclusive cruises to the Caribbean and trips to Europe are among the top choices.

Air travel should rise to 3.55 million from 3.50 million last year, the AAA said, noting a 14% increase in fares "may also be putting a damper on flying." It added: "July 1st is shaping up to be the busiest day to fly." 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early June stopped requiring overseas travelers to test negative for COVID-19 – and Henn said air travel has "gone up considerably," partly because  the fear of getting stuck abroad if you test postive is gone. "That has taken away one of the things that held people back."

Sinclair said AAA statisticians have seen “bookings that are just through the roof.” 

Two mid-range categories of AAA-ranked hotels are boosting priceswith two-Diamond hotels  up 27% and three-Diamond ones up 23%, said the AAA. 

Cruises — especially from home ports, which mean no flights are needed — appear quite popular, Sinclair said, adding that their everything-included prices are particularly attractive in high inflation eras. 

The most popular domestic travel destinations start with Orlando, followed by Seattle, New York, Anaheim, Anchorage, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Denver, and Chicago, the AAA said.

The overseas list is led by Vancouver, then Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Dublin, Calgary, Punta Cana, Cancun and Nassau.

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