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When turkey calls, travelers hit the road
Holiday traffic expected to increase nationally but drop slightly in Virginia. Gas prices are still high, about on par with last year, so travelers probably will spend less.


Date published: 11/20/2012

BY SCOTT SHENK

Some 1.2 million Virginians will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday, about a 2 percent drop from last year, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Virginia drivers are expected to buck the national trend, which calls for 44 million Americans to hit the road for the long weekend. That's a slight increase in holiday travel over last year.

AAA's national survey indicates that travelers will spend less and take shorter trips. Gas prices are the likely culprit, since some 90 percent of travelers will be driving.

Nationally, gas prices have dropped more than 30 cents a gallon in the past month, but the decrease follows record high prices. The cost at the pump now is slightly higher than 2011, said AAA Mid-Atlantic's Martha Mitchell Meade.

Virginians, on the other hand, are getting a bit of a break with slightly lower prices at the pump than the same time last year.

AAA expects the national gas price average to drop to somewhere between $3.25 and $3.40 a gallon by Wednesday when the holiday travel period begins.

The national average cost for a gallon of regular stood at $3.42 early this week. Last year the price per gallon was $3.38.

In Virginia last year, the average gas price was $3.28 per gallon, compared to $3.24 now.

And in the Fredericksburg area, the current average of slightly less than $3.23 is virtually the same as last year.

Either way, gas prices are still high--the average price from 2007 to 2011 was $2.75, AAA said. And, as a result, median spending is expected to drop 10 percent compared with last year.

Meade said there are still positive signs, noting that travel numbers have continued a steady climb since 2008, when gas prices hit record highs and Thanksgiving holiday travel hit a 10-year low.

"The allure of the holiday feast and time with family and friends simply remains stronger than any negatives associated with traveling," she said in a release.

ROAD WORK ON HOLD

Those driving this Thanksgiving will get a break on the interstates and major highways.

The Virginia Department of Transportation, and other state highway departments, will suspend lane closures in work zones for the holiday travel period.

VDOT's suspension runs from noon Wednesday until noon Monday.

POLICE PUSH SAFETY

Expect to see more police patrolling major roads, especially the interstates.


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