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High travel volume expected for holiday weekend

More Marylanders are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this Labor Day weekend compared to last, possibly because of the early date for the holiday and relatively low gas prices.

AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates 728,000 Marylanders will travel more than 50 miles this weekend, which is a 1.2 percent increase from 2013 and would be the third-highest travel volume on record. Of the total, the majority, 635,000 people, are expected to be driving, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

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Gas prices being at their lowest for August since 2010, at an average cost per gallon of $3.39, is believed to be the reason so many people will be traveling by car, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Charles Gischlar, spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said major roadwork will be halted for the weekend to accommodate the additional traffic.

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"We generally will suspend any planned lane closures," Gischlar said.

Unless an emergency repair is needed, drivers can expect the maximum number of lanes to be open on their Labor Day weekend drives in the state, he said.

The SHA also plans to have crews out in full force along major interstates and U.S. 50 heading to Ocean City to quickly assist drivers experiencing problems, Gischlar said.

Holiday weekend travel has been up all summer as AAA Mid-Atlantic also estimated increased traffic on Memorial Day and Independence Day weekends.

The early date for Labor Day, Sept. 1, is also expected to contribute to the higher travel volume, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Gischlar said before heading out on the road is a good time to spend five minutes doing a visual vehicle inspection, especially for those who are anticipating they'll have to sit in traffic in the August heat.

Drivers should check tires for tread and any punctures, make sure the battery and gauges are functional and check hoses and belts, Gischlar said.

Air travel volume is expected to remain the same as Labor Day Weekend 2013, and the number of people using other modes of travel, including bus and train, is expected to drop, according to an AAA news release.

The reason for the stagnant growth in travel by air and other methods is suspected to be higher fixed prices, according to the release. Auto travel is more flexible and, with lower gas prices, can be more cost-efficient.

Reach staff writer Heather Cobun at 410-857-7898 or email heather.cobun@carrollcountytimes.com.

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