The sluggish economy is being blamed for holding down the expected number of travelers during the July Fourth holiday period, according to AAA.
An estimated 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home Wednesday through Sunday, the auto club said.
That is down 0.8 percent from the 41.1 million who traveled a year ago when July Fourth landed on a Wednesday. Last year’s holiday period was measured over six days instead of the typical five-day period.
Analysts for AAA said the return to a typical holiday period is one reason the number of expected travelers is down.
The other reason is economic. Budget cuts in government spending and a reinstatement of the standard Social Security payroll tax are holding back the economy and reducing travel plans, the AAA said.
The largest number of travelers – 32 percent – will leave home Wednesday. Thirty-eight percent, the highest percentage, will return Sunday. A sizable segment of travelers – 34 percent – plan to stretch their trips with a Monday return.
Most people – 84 percent – will go by automobile.
The average round-trip distance is expected to be 613 miles. Spending could reach $747 per traveler.
Visiting family, shopping and dining are the most popular activities, according to AAA’s survey. But sightseeing, going to the beach and visiting national parks are also popular among travelers interviewed for the AAA study.
The high point for travel over the Independence Day holiday dates to 2007, the year before the latest economic recession. An estimated 42.3 million Americans journeyed more than 50 miles from home that year.
Major projects continue
Construction on state highways will be suspended at noon on Wednesday to allow for smoother traffic flow through areas under construction.
However, work will continue until then on several major state projects in the area.
Pines Road from Trent to 32nd avenues will have lane restrictions from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. to allow for work on new handicapped sidewalk ramps. Sidewalks from Trent to Marietta Avenue will be closed on the southbound side of the road from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Friday for conduit installation.
Sidewalks at Pines and Mission Avenue and Pines and Nora Avenue will be closed this evening through Tuesday. A handicapped-equipped shuttle bus will transport pedestrians through those areas.
On the North Side, work continues on sidewalk improvements and repaving on Francis Avenue west of Division Street and Nine Mile Road northward to the Stevens County line. Lane restrictions are possible during evening and early morning hours.
The intersection of Francis and Market Street remains under reconstruction with traffic restrictions there. The project involves construction of a bridge east of Market over the North Spokane Corridor and BNSF Railway.
Interstate 90 overpass bridges west of the Cheney-Four Lakes interchange are repaired and repaved, but lane markers are still needed.
Also, work to install new lane markers is continuing on I-90 at Sunset Hill during evening hours.
Installation of new lighting on I-90 through downtown Spokane may cause periodic lane restrictions.
Construction of a new U.S. Highway 195 interchange at Cheney-Spokane Road is causing lane restrictions there.
The Keller Ferry on state Highway 21 over the Columbia River will be shut down from July 8 to Aug. 14 to rebuild the terminals to match the dimensions of a new ferry being assembled now at Grand Coulee.
Johannsen Road to be improved
Spokane County is planning to improve Johannsen Road in the vicinity of Prairie View Elementary School.
County commissioners last week issued a call for bids on a project estimated to cost $392,000, including engineering and administrative costs.
The job involves excavating the roadway, repaving, and installing catch basins, storm sewer pipe, curbs, curb ramps, sidewalk and driveways.
Bids are due by the morning of July 17 at the commissioners’ office.
Closures on the Fourth
Thursday’s fireworks display in downtown Spokane will result in several street closures beginning at 9:45 p.m.
The locations are Washington Street from Boone Avenue to Spokane Falls Boulevard; Cliff Drive from Grove Court to Sumner Avenue; and Glass Avenue in the vicinity of Washington and Howard streets.
Bike race downtown
A bike race in downtown Spokane will result in street closures from 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday. The Lilac City Twilight Criterium will also close parking slots starting at 3:30 p.m. Yellow bags will be used to mark the closed meters.
Rehabilitation of Crestline Street from 44th to 53rd avenues will start today. New water lines are planned on Crestline from 57th to Thurston avenues and Stone and Lee streets from Thurston to 37th Avenue.
Elsewhere, sidewalk construction is starting today on Freya Street from Ben Burr Boulevard to 18th Avenue. Traffic restrictions could cause delays there.
Third Avenue from Division to Arthur streets continues to have one lane of traffic during the rehabilitation project.
Appleway lane closure
In Spokane Valley, Appleway just west of Park Road will have a curb lane closure on the north side of the street from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. starting today.