A record-high 1 million Washington-area residents are expected to travel for the Fourth of July holiday, with many people stretching the nation's birthday into a much longer vacation.
With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts half the area's travelers will be gone before the start of the work week.
"Gas prices are low so we're going to take advantage and go see the family in Florida," D.C. attorney Cheryl Eddy said.
|When will they leave town?|
|Source: AAA Mid-Atlantic|
Eddy, like others in her office, will use vacation time next Thursday and Friday to give herself a five-day holiday.
"My boss has promised not to email me, or text me or call me," she said. "Normally we just hang out and go to the Pentagon and watch the fireworks from there. But it's going to be nice to see the family."
AAA survey data suggests more than 850,000 people will be traveling 50 miles or more by vehicle from the Washington area, but spokesman John Townsend said he only expects heavy traffic on Friday and Tuesday. Another 150,000 travelers will be using the area's airports and bus stations.
The high travel numbers, which is up 5 percent from last year and almost 50 percent from 2009, can be blamed on a recovering economy and falling gas prices.
"Normally gas prices peak after the Fourth of July," Townsend said. "This year they peaked at Easter. Gas prices have been falling for 10 weeks in a row."
Area prices sit at an average of $3.36 a gallon, and Townsend said they'll probably keep trending downward until Labor Day.
"That puts people in the mood for traveling," he said.
But those staying in the nation's capital shouldn't get too excited at the prospects of a break in traffic.
"Starting Tuesday night it's not just people going out, there's people coming in," he said. "It's going to be jammed. Each one of these persons who are leaving, they're going to be replaced by some out-of-towner. If you're in D.C., you're not going to notice anything different."