More Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year, but the growth in the number of expected travelers has slowed.

According to projection by AAA, the number of Americans expected to travel 50 miles or more from their homes will increase by less than 1 percent, to 37.3 million.

Travel growth is slowing because of significantly higher travel costs this year, according to the AAA.

“Higher prices and sagging consumer confidence will make Thanksgiving travel growth a bit less robust this holiday, although airports and highways will be as busy as ever,” AAA CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said in a statement.

“Prices for gasoline, hotel rooms and rental cars have increased, but that will not keep people from traveling. You’d be hard pressed to tell grandma that you’re not coming for Thanksgiving dinner because it will cost an extra $10 to fill up your gas tank,” he said.

Gas prices have been plummeting during the past month. The national average was $2.25 per gallon Friday, 47 cents lower than a month ago, but 34 cents higher than last year.

Regionally, prices at the pump have dropped to about $2.15 per gallon compared with $2.49 a gallon on Oct. 17.

“Basically, there are two very market-related reasons for the fall in gas prices,” said John Bisney, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington.

“The supply has increased as more and more of the facilities on the Gulf Coast have come back on line following the hurricanes,” Bisney said. “The second reason is there has been a slight drop in consumption and I think that is attributable greatly to the higher prices, and as prices come down, you will probably see that effect wane.”

The Thanksgiving holiday presents the greatest spike in travel during the year, Bisney said. More people travel during the four-day weekend than during any other time.

Bisney said the busy travel weekend historically has had little impact on gas prices. Thanksgiving simply is too short of a travel period to have any real or lasting influence, he said.

“As everyone knows, depending on your source, it’s either the day before Thanksgiving or the Sunday after that is the busiest travel day of the year,” Bisney said. “But that is such a short-lived increase in travel volume that it shouldn’t put that much of an upward pressure on prices.”

For those who will take to the road, Jon Pacheco, meteorologist at AccuWeather in State College, said driving conditions look as though they will be manageable.

While it is difficult to project precipitation levels a week in advance, he said Friday that it appears the holiday weekend will be largely dry.

Pacheco also noted that any precipitation during the weekend will be snow, as temperatures will drop significantly from the annual averages. He said the Johnstown region will experience highs only in the low 30s and upper 20s during the holiday weekend.

“It’s kind of like payback,” Pacheco said. “It’s been pretty mild through late October and early November. So we got spoiled. We’ve gotten this blast of cold air now, and it looks like it will stay.”

Meanwhile, authorities said state troopers will team up with local police next week to closely monitor speed and seat-belt usage during the holiday with roving patrols and safety checkpoints.

Police in Adams Township and Altoona will take part, according to PennDOT.

More than 300 police departments are expected to actively participate in the holiday watch.

State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said he has directed troopers to adopt a “zero-tolerance policy” toward violations of the state’s seat belt and child passenger restraint laws.

“If a driver is stopped for a traffic violation and anyone in the vehicle is not properly restrained, the driver will get two citations instead of one,” Miller said.



Shawn Piatek can be reached at 532-5060 or spiatek@tribdem.com.

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