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AAA: Memorial Day weekend drivers should expect delays, higher gas prices

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Posted at 2:23 PM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 16:23:44-04

Some 39 million Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, about a million more than last year. 

Following a winter of heavy road damage, AAA urges Idaho drivers to pack plenty of patience, since emergency road repair and new construction projects are in full swing across the Gem State.

Although many work crews typically forgo construction activity around the holiday, unforeseen deadlines may compel some projects to move forward on a case-by-case basis. 

“Freezing and flooding have produced potholes and damaged roadbeds,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs manager for AAA Idaho. “A backlog of new construction projects and the extensive damage to existing roadways have taken parts of several critical travel lanes out of commission.”

AAA expects more than 205,000 Idahoans to travel fifty miles or more from home for the holiday -– defined as Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29 -– even though an unusually cold and snowy winter has placed many Gem State roads in serious disrepair.

AAA reminds drivers that a higher volume of traffic traveling on a reduced number of travel lanes could result in delays. Motorists should go to http://511.idaho.gov/ or call 5-1-1 for the latest information on road closures and lane restrictions. 

“It’s also a good idea to pack extra snacks and water to help pass the time if road construction slows you down,” Conde said.  “Drivers need to recognize that this is the time to tackle these projects.”

“Conditions can change rapidly in construction zones,” he said. “Speed limits can sharply decrease, and road crews and heavy equipment can appear at any time.” Conde recommends that motorists eliminate driving distractions to help keep flaggers and other construction workers safe. 

Meantime, U.S. average gas prices are increasing for the first time in the past four weeks. Today’s national average price is $2.37 -- which is four cents less than a month ago, but seven cents higher than a year ago. In Idaho, drivers are paying $2.58 for regular gasoline today -- three cents more than one month ago and thirteen cents higher than a year ago.

Idaho leads the Rocky Mountain region with the highest pump prices, and the Gem State currently ranks eighth in the country, Conde said. 

“Some parts of the country have greater flexibility to overproduce and impact the supply side when gas and oil prices climb,” he explained. “Idaho is part of a fuel supply chain that hasn’t significantly expanded in more than a decade, so the region sometimes marches to a different tune than the rest of the country.”

Even so, AAA projects that drivers will not allow rising gas prices to interfere with family fun, and many travelers will adjust other expenses or finance their vacations with debt.