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1.4M Michiganians expected to travel July 4th weekend

Evan Carter
The Detroit News

More than 1.4 million Michiganians will be traveling at least 50 miles away from their homes this Fourth of July holiday, up 1.5 percent over 2015 and the highest travel volume since 2003, according to estimates from AAA Michigan.

Most of those traveling, more than 1.2 million, will reach their destination by car. Drivers will benefit from pauses in many Michigan Department of Transportation construction projects, as well as gas prices that on Wednesday were on average 43 cents cheaper than one year ago at $2.47.

On Independence Day, AAA predicts U.S. drivers will have the lowest prices at the pump since 2005.

“We know according to our forecasts that we have a record breaking week for travel this week in Michigan and it’s important to be extra careful and safe on our roads,” said Susan Hiltz, AAA Michigan’s public affairs director.

Campground reservations at state parks this summer are up 10 percent compared with last summer, said Maia Turek, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman.

The state parks are about 92 percent occupied headed into the weekend — about the same rate as last year, Turek said.

Drivers should be aware of the dangers associated with driving under the influence of alcohol, Hiltz said, because almost three-quarters, or 72 percent, of fatal crashes during last year’s Fourth of July weekend were alcohol related.

“We know a lot of people will be drinking this weekend, but the best thing is to designate a driver and don’t ever drive under the influence,” she said.

Hiltz also suggests that travelers begin their driving trips in the morning.

“The peak travel times for Michigan motorists will be Friday and Monday afternoons,” she said in a statement. “The best times to leave will be in the morning, because the roads will be less crowded and drivers will have more time to get to their destination safely.”

There will be fewer lane closures because the Michigan Department of Transportation plans to suspend traffic restrictions on 102 of its 144 projects from 3 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Among the projects where lane closures will remain in effect:

■I-75 in Saginaw County will have traffic shifted between Dixie Highway and Hess.

■I-75 in Monroe County has two lanes open in each direction with a traffic shift between I-275 and Dixie Highway.

■I-275, Wayne County, has all southbound lanes closed between the I-96/I-696 interchange and I-96/M-14.

■U.S. 131 in Grand Rapids has one southbound lane closed between Ann and Leonard. Both the Ann ramp to southbound U.S. 131 and the southbound U.S. 131 ramp to Leonard are closed.

A full list of construction and road closures can be found on the MDOT website or on the MI Drive app for iOS and Android.

Many of those traveling have booked a reservation at one of the state Department of Natural Resources campsites.

“We’re looking at only about 9 or 10 out of all of our modern camp sites being below 90 percent occupancy,” said Turek.

Turek said hiking and biking are two of the most popular activities on DNR’s trails.

Except for a chance of rain Thursday night to Friday morning, the Detroit area will have sunny, cloudless skies and temperatures that max out at 86 degrees through Tuesday afternoon, said Sara Schultz, meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in White Lake Township.

“The main thing is that it’s going to be dry. We do have, coming into Thursday night and early Friday morning, a 50 percent chance of rain, but even that will be iffy,” Schultz said. “Temperatures wise, not too bad, we’re looking at 70s.”

Jackie Rozan, 25, of Macomb Township said she is planning to travel to Traverse City over the Fourth of July weekend to see friends and go boating.

She said she “was going to go anyway” regardless of the gas prices.

Gas prices were a bigger factor for Erich Smith, 41, of Riverview who is traveling to a campground in Howell with his wife and three children.

“Gas has not been bad, so we’re feeling free to travel because it’s so good,” Smith said.

He also said the near-perfect weather is another factor in his vacation planning.

“We might add onto trips because things are so awesome,” Smith said.

excarter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2613

Twitter: @evancarter_94