The Best Time to Hit the Road for Fourth of July Travel

This Fourth of July weekend is expected to be a record-breaking one when it comes to the number people of traveling– not the best news for those hoping to hit the road during peak travel times, according to a recent report from AAA Chicago.

But, when is the best time to hop in the car and get on the way to your destination?

The Illinois Tollway anticipates the heaviest travel day will be Friday, July 1, when nearly 2 million vehicles are projected to be on the road. On an average day, about 1.5 million vehicles use the Tollway.

Drivers are advised to start their weekend travel before lunch or after 8 p.m. on Friday. This advice holds true for drivers on the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80); drivers headed to lake visits in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin; as well as drivers on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) and the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355).

Record-Breaking Travel

AAA projects nearly 43 Americans will travel this Independence Day weekend, which represents the highest fourth of July travel volume on record and five million more travelers compared to Memorial Day weekend. The holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

In Illinois, 2.3 million people will be traveling for the holiday weekend, which is a one percent increase from 2015. Of those travelers, two million will be driving (up one percent from 2015) and 104,000 will be flying to their destination (a .5 percent increase from 2015).

Gas prices across Illinois are on average $2.55, down substantially from $3.00 in 2015.

“Independence Day is always the most-traveled holiday of the summer, but this year it will be bigger than ever, primarily because of low gas prices,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Airports will be just as crowded as the roads, because low fuel prices are making it more affordable to fly. If fundamentals remain the same, this could be a record-breaking year for summertime travel.”

Eight million people are expected to travel on the Illinois Tollway over the holiday weekend, which is a 5.6 percent increase in travelers from 2015, according to an Illinois Tollway press release.

“Summer travel on the Illinois Tollway has become increasingly busy, as more customers realize the benefits of our investments in our roadways and bridges,” said Executive Director Greg Bedalov. “To help customers better navigate traffic this summer, we encourage motorists to start their weekend trips early or wait until later in the evening on Fridays.”

To accommodate increased Fourth of July weekend travel on the Illinois Tollway, most construction activity will be restricted to better serve Tollway customers. Most temporary maintenance and construction lane closures will be suspended from noon on Friday, July 1, through 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5. Some work may continue behind barriers to keep work on schedule. To view a list of construction projects still taking place over the Fourth of July weekend, visit here.

Local Traffic Updates

Low gas prices driving increase in auto travel this Independence Day
Eighty-four percent of holiday travelers – more than 36 million people – will drive to their Independence Day destinations, an increase of 1.2 percent over last year.

Air travel is expected to increase 2.2 percent over last year, with 3.3 million Americans taking to the skies this Independence Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase two percent to 3.3 million travelers.

Most of those travelers are expected to fill cruise cabins and AAA’s holiday cruise bookings are 35 percent higher than last Independence Day.

Airfares and hotel rates lower than last Independence Day
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be nine percent less this Independence Day, with an average round-trip ticket costing $207.

Hotel costs have fallen slightly compared to last Independence Day. AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels will average $185, while a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel will average $144 nightly. Daily car rental rates will average $75, six percent more than last year.

Illinois State Police District 15 Out in Force
The Illinois State Police District 15, like many police agencies across the state, will be out in full force during the holiday weekend.

The goals of State Police are not only to assist traveling motorists but also to decrease traffic fatalities and serious personal injury through high visibility and strict enforcement of all traffic laws.

“District 15 will have additional officers on patrol and will be conducting special enforcement details focusing on speed, distracted driving, truck lane restrictions and alcohol-related offenses in an effort to reduce crashes and prevent fatalities,” said District 15 Commander Robert Meeder. “We are asking drivers to help keep the Illinois Tollway safe by slowing down, putting away their cellphones and buckling up all occupants to ensure safe travel.”

District 15 special traffic details will focus on the fatal four offenses that include speeding, driving under the influence, seat belts and distracted driving.

These details will include seat belt enforcement by officers at toll plazas, air speed details throughout construction work zones on the I-90 Rebuilding and Widening Project and the use of special enforcement vehicles such as motorcycles, unmarked squad cars and fully marked colored squads throughout the Tollway system.

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