More traffic expected during Labor Day weekend

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldAugust 29, 2013 

Andrew Payne of West Richland cleans up his Hood Park campsite Thursday before he and Mike Wilson of Pasco head to the river to fish. The friends set up the site Wednesday and the rest of their families will meet them over the weekend. All 67 Hood Park campsites are booked for the weekend. Payne said he booked his site in January.

More people are expected to hit the road over Labor Day weekend than any year since the recession began in 2008.

About 34.1 million Americans are likely to travel 50 miles or more over the holiday, said Cassie Devaney, spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association in Spokane. That's up 4.2 percent over Labor Day last year.

"As home prices are improving across the country, more families are feeling confident and traveling over the Labor Day holiday," Devaney said.

And good weather is predicted -- at least in the Mid-Columbia region.

Expect slightly above normal temperatures, with highs near 85 today, 88 on Saturday, 92 on Sunday and 89 on Labor Day, said meteorologist Rachel Trimarco with the National Weather Service in Pendleton.

"Our normal temperatures are in the mid-80s," she said.

The Mid-Columbia also should stay dry through at least Sunday, Trimarco said. Rain, with a chance of thunderstorms, is possible Monday.

"If you are outdoors and you hear thunder, that means that lightning is close enough that it could strike," she warned. "Take shelter."

Gasoline prices are down for travelers in the Tri-Cities, according to AAA. A gallon of regular unleaded averaged $3.66 as of Thursday morning, compared to $3.82 going into Labor Day weekend last year.

Gas is also down compared to a month ago, when a gallon of regular cost $3.89.

The Tri-Cities has the lowest average gas price of any metropolitan area in the state measured by AAA.

The highest average price for regular unleaded in Washington is in Bellingham, where drivers pay just under $3.80 a gallon. The Seattle and Spokane areas follow at about $3.77 a gallon.

Statewide, the average price for a gallon of unleaded is $3.75. In Oregon, unleaded is going for $3.70 a gallon, AAA said.

To keep the traffic flowing, the Washington State Department of Transportation plans to suspend most of its state highway construction projects starting at noon Aug. 30 through Monday.

Spokeswoman Alice Fiman said the only places where drivers may notice a slowdown because of road work is in locations where lanes are closed around the clock. "There'll be no active construction," she said.

Rock blasting on Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass also will be halted over the weekend, Fiman said.

But not everyone is heading across the state for the long weekend.

Andrew Payne of West Richland was waiting for his family Thursday at Hood Park near Burbank. He and his friend Mike Wilson of Pasco reserved campsites along the Snake River in January.

Payne, a real estate agent and owner of a company that distributes jukeboxes and arcade games, said it can be expensive to travel a long distance. He used to pay $150 each way to tow a boat to Sun Lakes near Coulee City.

"(At Hood Park), we're right on the river, there's good fishing," he said. "If something happens at our jobs, we're 20 minutes out of town. Everything we need is right in our backyard."

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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