AAA expects more Marylanders to travel for Memorial Day

Rainy weather on Friday could affect trips to the beach

  • At a news conference Wednesday beside the Chesapeake Bay, AAA officials expressed confidence that the weekend will be the kickoff of a travel-filled summer. "It's clear that we're shedding that recession mentality," said AAA spokesman Mahlon G. "Lon" Anderson, pictured.
At a news conference Wednesday beside the Chesapeake Bay, AAA… (Michael Dresser, The Baltimore…)
May 26, 2010|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Buoyed by signs of economic recovery and affordable gas prices, Marylanders will increase their Memorial Day travel by a "robust" 6.4 percent over last year, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicted Wednesday.

At a news conference set beside the Chesapeake Bay, AAA officials expressed confidence that the weekend will be the start of a travel-filled summer.

"It's clear that we're shedding that recession mentality," said AAA spokesman Mahlon G. "Lon" Anderson. He said Maryland's expected increase compares with an expected 5.4 percent gain nationwide.

AAA forecasts that almost 640,000 Marylanders will travel 50 or more miles, round trip, over the three-day weekend. An estimated 545,000 will go by car — a 6.8 increase over last year.

Anderson said car travel will get a boost from moderating gasoline prices, which have eased over the past two weeks after threatening to reach $3 a gallon.

"Even gas prices are cooperating," Anderson said, pointing to prices in the region that are averaging $2.80-$2.81 and boasting that he had just filled up at $2.69 a gallon.

Ragina Averella, AAA's Maryland spokeswoman, said air travel by state residents this weekend is expected to reach 46,800 — a 3.5 percent increase. Other modes of travel, including buses and rails, are expected to see healthy gains, as well.

Ocean City Mayor Richard W. Meehan told the news conference on Kent Island that the ocean resort is "very optimistic" about its prospects for the weekend and the entire summer. He said Ocean City has seen increases in booking of hotels and condos.

Meehan said the resort tallied about 4 million visitors last year, and that its room-tax collections are running ahead of 2009 totals.

"All indications are we're going to exceed those numbers in 2010," he said.

Lt. Col. G. Robert Turano, chief of field operations for the Maryland State Police, warned that officers will be "at times omnipresent" this weekend along U.S. 50 leading to Ocean City. He said Maryland ranks No. 6 in the country in issuing speeding tickets — but not because drivers here are going faster than those in other states.

"Police in Maryland are doing a good job of enforcing the speed limit," he said.

Maj. Michael Kundrat, patrol division commander for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said 352,000 motorists are expected to cross the Bay Bridge this weekend. He suggested that motorists who want to avoid backups should travel at off-peak hours, such as before 2 p.m. Thursday or noon Friday for eastbound travelers. Drivers returning from the beach Monday, he said, should travel before 11 a.m. or after 10 p.m.

Travel to the beach this weekend could also be complicated by rain predicted for Friday. But the National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies in Ocean City for the rest of the weekend.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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