Our Voice: Labor Day should bring surge in weekend travel

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and while the holiday is supposed to be about honoring the American worker, for most folks it has become a three-day last chance get-away before summer ends.

And according to AAA, a combination of factors will make this weekend stand out from other years.

For one, AAA says U.S. drivers will pay the lowest gas prices this Labor Day weekend since 2004. Today’s national average price of gas is $2.44 per gallon, which is 99 cents per gallon less than a year ago.

In the Tri-Cities, the average price per gallon on Sept. 3 was $2.81. That’s $1 a gallon less than last year at this time, so that is welcome news.

Statewide, we are better than the average $2.91 per gallon, also as of Sept. 3. So be sure and check the gas prices and fill up locally before leaving home. Currently, the Tri-Cities has lower gas prices than Yakima, Spokane and the Seattle area. But prices fluctuate, so plan ahead. One option is the AAA website and www.FuelGaugeReportAAA.com for average gas prices in various cities.

Travelers also should be aware that the lower gas prices likely will mean more traffic.

AAA estimates 35.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during this Labor Day weekend, which is the highest number since 2008 and a 1 percent increase over 2014.

With all those cars on the highway, the Washington State Department of Transportation is encouraging travelers to check its website for traffic volume and construction zones before leaving the driveway.

The WSDOT will suspend most road construction work in anticipation of the increased traffic this weekend, but there are some projects that will still cause delays.

One of those is on Interstate 90 eastbound on the Vantage Bridge. WSDOT is in the middle of a painting project that officials say cannot be halted. Travelers should consider alternate routes via Highway 97, Interstate 82 or Highway 24.

So while lower gas prices and a last shot at summer fun is prompting many folks to think primarily of their travel plans, it would be great if those enjoying themselves this weekend would take a moment to reflect on why the holiday was started in the first place.

It was declared a national holiday by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 as an acknowledgment that the nation’s economic success was dependent on a strong work force.

In many communities, Labor Day used to be celebrated with parades and picnics, but not so much anymore. Now most people just think about getting a day off.

And since that’s the case, for those fortunate to get time off, it would be a kind gesture to be especially patient and courteous to those workers who still have to punch the clock this holiday. It is, after all, Labor Day weekend.