AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting a big jump in the number of Marylanders who will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year, with state residents taking to the road at a rate slightly higher than the national average.
The group projects that almost 850,000 Marylanders will travel 50 miles or more between Wednesday and the following Sunday. That represents an 11.8 percent increase over 2009, compared with an expected national average of 11.4 percent. The difference apparently reflects the employment market, which has been more robust in Maryland than most other states.
Holiday travel has plunged nationwide over the past two years because of the recession, which has cut deeply into families' disposable income.
AAA said 95 percent of Maryland's holiday travelers, or 811,000 of them, will take to the roads. That represents a 12.2 percent increase over last year. The organization said the price of gasoline is about 26 cents higher than a year ago, but below the levels where it would discourage travel.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Transportation Authority predicted a 2 percent increase in the amount of traffic on the state's toll facilities this weekend over last year's count. The Fort McHenry Tunnel is expected to be the busiest, carrying a projected 780,000 vehicles between Tuesday and Sunday.
The next busiest is expected to be the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (Interstate 95 northeast of Baltimore), with 700,000. The Bay Bridge is projected to come in third with 460,000 vehicles.
Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day on the Bay Bridge, and the authority is urging motorists to travel before noon or after 7 p.m. On Sunday, the authority predicts steady westbound traffic all day.
On Thanksgiving Day and the day after, the agency recommends that motorists use the bridge before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. to avoid delays.