4th of July

Hitting the Road for 4th of July? Here's When to Expect the Most Traffic

A study published June 22 by AAA shows where and what times travelers can see an increase in delays and higher cost

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Near-record traffic is expected for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to a recent study.

According to AAA, 2021 will be the second-highest recorded Independence Day travel event, with 47.7 million Americans hitting the road. That's an increase of 40% compared with July 4, 2020 -- which came amid the pandemic.

The vast majority of Independence Day travel -- 91% -- will be by car, according to AAA.

"Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they've deferred for the last year-and-a-half," said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. "We saw strong demand for travel around Memorial Day and the kick-off of summer, and all indications now point to a busy Independence Day to follow."

Daniel Armbruster, spokesman for AAA Texas, said travel volume is expected to surpass previous levels for Fourth of July in the state.

Between Thursday and Monday, AAA Texas anticipates 3.3 million people will drive to their destination, up 10% over the previous record set in 2019 and a 40% increase over 2020.

"We anticipate of course busy crowded roadways especially Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon," he said.

The AAA study revealed the best and worst times for travel:

DateWorst TimeBest Time
Thursday3 p.m. – 5 p.m.After 7 p.m.
Friday4 p.m. – 5 p.m.Before 12 p.m.
Saturday11 a.m. – 1 p.m.After 2 p.m.
SundayFree flow expected-
Monday4 p.m. – 5 p.m.Before 1 p.m.
Source: INRIX/AAA

Nationwide, another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by means other than cars this Independence Day, an increase of over 72% compared to last year. These travelers will be using trains, buses, and even boats as cruise lines announce limited sailing returning from U.S ports.

Besides higher traffic flow, travelers can also expect higher prices this week. Gas prices remain above $3 a gallon in some parts of the country.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, gas prices last week were $2.81 on average, an increase of 90 cents over what travelers were paying last year, Armbruster said.

That won't stop many people from traveling or renting cars as there is a 86% increase in car rentals this year compared to last.

"A lot of people have been cooped up at home for more than a year now and are ready to get out and explore so that's one of the big reasons why we're seeing such a demand for travel," Armbruster said.

Hotels are also seeing a mid-range increase of 32-35% this holiday.

The study also reports the highest expected traffic and times on U.S highways with a Texas city making the list:

Metro AreaCorridorPeak Congestion% over Normal
AtlantaI-75 N, Jodeco Road to Jenkinsburg RoadFriday, 1:00–3:00PM50%

BostonI-95 S, MA-10 to Sanford RoadMonday, 3:00–5:00PM330%
ChicagoI-90 E, W Roosevelt Road to I-294Friday, 4:00–6:00PM50%
DetroitI-75 N, 12 Mile Road to Oakland StFriday, 3:00–6:00PM50%
HoustonI-10 W, Bernardo Road to Pin Oak RoadSaturday, 8:00–10:00AM50%
Los AngelesI-405 N, I-5 to Jefferson BlvdFriday, 3:00–5:00PM10%
New YorkI-278 E, Bronx River to Williamsburg StThursday, 3:00–5:00PM30%
San FranciscoCA-17 N, Lark Ave to Mt Hermon RoadMonday, 6:00–8:00PM340%
SeattleI-5 S, Capitol Blvd (Olympia) to JBLMFriday, 1:00–3:00PM20%
Washington DCI-95 S, Route 3 to Dumfries RoadThursday, 2:00–4:00PM30%
Source: INRIX

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trip on Monday midday.

Major metro areas across the U.S. could see nearly double the delays versus typical drive times, with drivers in Boston and San Francisco likely to experience nearly three times the delays.

Armbruster said the increase in travel is likely to extend beyond the Independence Day travel period.

"This is some momentum that we've been seeing ... since March that's been building and we anticipate this type of pattern will continue throughout the summer and into 2022," he said.

Some more tips from AAA:

  • It’s important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place.
  • Before hitting the road, AAA reminds motorists to plan their route in advance and ensure their vehicle is ready, to help avoid a breakdown along the way.
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