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Hitting the roads for Memorial Day?

Just a few reminders ...

Published: Friday, May 23, 2014 12:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 23, 2014 12:55 p.m. CDT

The Memorial Day holiday weekend may be the time for an increased number of family picnics and outings, but it is also the time for increased traffic on the roads.

According to AAA Travel, more people are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend than any other Memorial Day weekend since the recession. The travel organization predicts 36.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this weekend, which represents a 1.5 percent increase over last year’s 35.5 million travelers during the Memorial Day weekend.

Marshall Doney, AAA chief operating officer, said there could be several reasons for the expected increase traffic.

“As we enter into the summer travel season with warmer temperatures and tulips in bloom, thoughts of historic cold are still fresh in the minds of Americans in many parts of the country. The winter blues appear to have given Americans the travel bug and a case of cruise cabin fever as travel for the holiday is expected to hit a new post-recession high,” Doney said.

Plus, there could be some key economic factors driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year, Doney said.

“As the economy continues to improve at a slow and steady pace, consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending up, which is welcomed news for the travel industry,” he said.

On a local level, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he too expects to see a busy weekend for Bureau County families and travelers. Though he will not have an increased number of officers patrolling county roads this weekend, his officers do have an increased awareness of the fact that this is a busy weekend and the roads will be busy.

Also, traffic on the interstates seems to be increasing lately, and the interstate’s higher speed limit, from the previous 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour, has created a different environment for drivers, Thompson said. Drivers should be especially cautious and give themselves extra time to get to their designations.

The Illinois State Police (ISP) has also issued a statement, saying traffic surveillance by the ISP and other law enforcement agencies will be heavy on not just Memorial Day weekend but also throughout the summer. This increased enforcement effort is part of the 2014 National Memorial Day Crackdown that started on May 9 in Illinois.

“The highways will be busy, and motorists and passengers are vulnerable when traffic laws are not followed,” ISP Director Hiram Grau said. “Police statewide will partner to enforce all traffic laws, but especially want the motoring public to remember to buckle up — that includes drivers and all passengers safely restrained inside the vehicle.”

In an effort to reduce potential roadway congestion and to improve travel safety this weekend, Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider announced on Thursday that the Illinois Department of Transportation is suspending all non-emergency roadwork where possible and also providing a list of lane closures in advance to help motorists plan their trips.

Starting at 3 p.m. Friday, IDOT suspended all non-emergency roadwork for the holiday weekend and opened up all lanes where possible through midnight Monday, May 26, Schneider said. Some construction zones will have lane closures in effect, depending on the projects.

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