A midweek holiday and the rebounding economy seem to be enough to give Ohioans the green light to travel en masse this weekend, according to AAA.
The number of travelers is expected to reach a record high, with 1.75 million Ohioans traveling 50 miles or more from home, said Kimberly Schwind, a spokeswoman for the automobile association.
"The Fourth of July falling midweek gives travelers more options for vacation timing," Schwind said. "A lot of people are taking the entire week off, but some are just taking half a week off to extend their weekends."
Ohio's travel numbers are expected to increase by 5.2 percent over last year, according to AAA. More than 42 million Americans will travel this weekend, a nearly 5 percent increase from last year.
And dropping gas prices likely have little to do with it, Schwind said. As of yesterday, the statewide average for a gallon of regular was $3.33 per gallon, compared with $3.32 this time last year.
"Most people have been planning their trips well in advance," Schwind said. "The low prices this week are more of an added bonus."
Travel numbers are up 42 percent from 2009, when Ohioans stayed home because of the recession, Schwind said.
Since then, the economy has improved, and people are getting more bang for their buck, she said. According to AAA, top destinations this year include Orlando, Fla., cruises and all-inclusive resorts, but many people will travel simply to spend time with family and friends.
Angie Tabor, manager of communications at Port Columbus, said a majority of the airport's weekend visitors will be leisure travelers.
"It's almost like a family reunion at the airport sometimes," Tabor said.
Lt. Anne Ralston, a State Highway Patrol spokeswoman, said troopers will be out in full force during the weekend and holiday to keep speeders in check.Troopers also will operate 18 sobriety checkpoints today and Saturday.
Drivers in central Ohio also will continue to share the road with construction workers while traveling, said Nancy Burton, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman. Although no additional lanes of traffic will close, construction on I-270, I-670 and I-71 will continue, except on the Fourth.
"There will be lots of traffic, but it won't be different from an afternoon rush hour," Burton said. "People just have to slow down and pay attention."
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