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AAA Expects Labor Day Weekend Traffic to Peak Friday, Monday Afternoon

<p>The Interstate 5 bridge connecting Washington and Oregon across the Columbia River as seen from Vancouver, Washington, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

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The Interstate 5 bridge connecting Washington and Oregon across the Columbia River as seen from Vancouver, Washington, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.

Drivers can expect the usually clogged roadways bookending Labor Day weekend, with congestion peaking on Friday and again Monday afternoon when most drivers start and end their weekend getaway, according to analyses conducted by the American Automobile Association. 

Marie Dodds, a spokeswoman for the association, said AAA is predicting peak travel times between 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and between noon and 4 p.m. on Monday. 

It’ll be busy, she said, but not quite as hectic as the roads on Memorial Day or Independence Day, two of the busiest travel days of the year. Dodds said the association is expecting 14 million fewer Americans to hit the road compared with this year’s July 4th weekend. 

Still, Dodds warns declining gas prices could translate into a spike in last-minute travelers. 

At $2.59 per gallon, the national gas price average for Labor Day trips is at its cheapest in three years, nearly a quarter cheaper than the price during 2018’s Labor Day and four cents cheaper than in 2017, according to AAA.

Oregon’s gas costs more ($3.05 on average, according to AAA), but Dodds said that’s still lower than the average price last year.

“That often will spur folks into a last-minute unplanned vacation,” she said. “Usually, when we have a decrease in gas prices and you throw in some nice weather, that can entice some folks to take a holiday weekend.” 

Forecasters are predicting a mix of clouds and sunshine along the Oregon Coast over Labor Day weekend, one of the more popular destinations this year according to the association’s analysis.

Some of the other top getaways include along the West include Bend, Central Oregon, Crater Lake, Ashland, Seattle, British Columbia and the Bay Area.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Rebecca Ellis is a reporter with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Before joining OPB, she was a Kroc Fellow at NPR, filing stories for the National Desk in Washington D.C. and reporting from Salt Lake City.