For the 4th, Washingtonians taking to the road, rails and skies

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Local,Joey Flechas

By car, train or plane, Washington-area travelers are expected to be traveling more this Fourth of July weekend than they did last year.

Drivers' club AAA Mid-Atlantic projects a 19 percent increase from last year in Washington area residents driving 50 miles or more to their holiday destinations, putting the expected total at 750,000.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend cited a rebounding economy and a dip in gas prices since Memorial Day as factors that will put more travelers on the road.

"[Gas prices] have dropped a dime since then in the metro area to an average of $2.72 a gallon, and area travelers are set on making it to the destinations they may have missed out on last Fourth of July," he said.

More people are expected to be taking to the air, too.

According to AAA, about 33,000 Washington-area residents will fly to their holiday destination, an increase of about 9 percent.

And even travel by rail, bus, motorcycle and recreational vehicle is expected to go up in the Washington area, with 15 percent increase expected.

All of this, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina Averella, indicates the economy is not as ravaged as it was last year.

"Summer holiday travel appears to be rebounding, starting with the Memorial Day and continuing with the Fourth of July," she said. "AAA Mid-Atlantic travel agents have seen an uptick in summer holiday travel bookings as further evidence of the rebound."

George Hoffer, a professor of economics at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the change probably has less to do with the economy, which he said has remained stagnant since last year's Fourth of July, and more to do with people's outlook and confidence.

"I think the difference, while the [economic] indicators are the same, is we're not in the shellshock and free fall of the first six months of 2009," he said. "People are willing to get out of their cocoon."

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