The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to scale back construction during the heavily traveled holiday period but motorists this season may be replacing one headache with another as gas prices are projected to climb to a six-year high.
AAA is predicting more than 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the holiday weekend, a nearly 2 percent increase from last year. During that period, which begins Wednesday and ends Sunday, about eight out of every 10 people will choose to travel by car, according to a AAA news release.
In Georgia, close to 1 million people are expected to travel by car while another 85,000 will opt for air travel. In all, 1,145,225 Georgians are expected to be on the move at some point during the holiday weekend.
AAA says travel volume for the Fourth of July has grown four out of the last five years and is expected to be six percent higher than the average of the past 10 years.
According to a statement from DOT spokeswoman Cissy McNure Friday, the department will cut back on lane closures this week in an effort to accommodate heavy travel during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Lane closures on interstates and major federal and state highways are to be restricted from noon Thursday to 5 a.m. on July 7.
“Be reminded crews may still be working, heavy equipment may remain staged in close proximity to highways and safety concerns may require some long-term lane closures remain in place,” the release said. “Additionally, incident management or emergency, maintenance-related lane closures could become necessary at any time on any route.”
Motorists should also plan to pay more at the pump as the average gas price is expected to be at its highest since 2008. That year, gas cost an average of $4.02 per gallon on the Fourth of July in Georgia, according to a AAA news release. Last year, the state average was $3.34.
On Sunday, Georgia posted an average of $3.59 per gallon of gasoline, about a cent less than the week before.
“Still, current prices are about 10 cents cheaper than they were earlier this year,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins in the release. “So AAA doesn’t believe gas prices will keep people from traveling for the
holiday. Most plans have already been finalized and budgets allocated. If anything, travelers will cut back on costs in other areas like shopping, dining out or entertainment.”
But stormy weather could dampen some trips. Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker said a tropical depression forming about 140 miles off the east coast to Florida could bring some soggy weather to the Atlantic coastline, potentially reaching Georgia on Wednesday and Thursday.
The storm should miss the Augusta area, National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Cammarata said. Temperatures Thursday should hang in the mid-90s with a 35 percent chance of afternoon showers. The weather is expected to hold through Fourth of July as the storm passes by the area.
“It ought to be departing by Friday,” Cammarata said.