By Maria José Subiria
The end of the summer travel season is near, and the Georgia Department of Transportation is warning Peach State motorists traveling this Labor Day weekend that congestion on state roads is likely.
Travelers could experience traffic congestion on many Georgia interstate highways today, Friday and Monday, said Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
"We anticipate a very busy travel weekend ... in high-volume areas," said Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith, Jr.
In metro Atlanta, congested areas could include Interstate 75 south in Clayton and Henry counties, the downtown connector, I-75 in Cobb County, I-85 in Gwinnett County, I-285 on the north side of Atlanta and Ga. 400, according to transportation officials.
Paulk-Buchanan said the Georgia Department of Transportation will suspend all construction-related lane closures from Friday at 5 a.m., until Monday at 10 p.m. She said, however, that some permanent lane closures may be in effect on I-75 in south Georgia, I-85 in Coweta and Meriwether counties and I-95 on the Georgia coast.
While state transportation officials are warning of traffic congestion, travel experts say that nationwide, fewer people may be traveling this weekend compared to last year's Labor Day weekend.
Gregg Laskoski, managing director for public relations at AAA Auto Club South, said a 13.3 percent decrease in overall Labor Day travel is expected nationwide this year.
The projected numbers might reflect trends in the Southeast region, since most public school operations have begun, or will begin, before Sept. 7, he added. Other regions in the country will begin their school year after Labor Day.
"Although the calendar this year creates an anomaly that allows fewer families to hit the road, many may decide, at the last minute, to take advantage of significantly lower rates for hotels and airfares," said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president for AAA Auto Club South.
The Georgia State Patrol, and the Crash Reporting Unit at the Georgia Department of Transportation, estimate there will be 1,725 traffic crashes, 975 injuries and 18 traffic deaths during the holiday travel period, from Friday at 6 p.m., until Monday at midnight. Last year, 1,660 traffic crashes were reported across the state, which resulted in 798 injuries and 19 fatalities.
"During the 2008 Labor Day holiday travel period, there were 19 traffic fatalities, and 76 percent of the people killed in car crashes had no safety equipment in use," said Col. Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. "Additionally, four of the traffic deaths were alcohol related."
Hitchens said troopers from the Georgia State Patrol, and officers with the Motor Carrier Compliance and Capitol Police divisions of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, will be focusing on safety belt, child restraint and impaired driving violations this weekend.
Georgia Department of Transportation officials said metro Atlanta residents are encouraged to call 511, at no cost, for information on traffic conditions statewide, specific route information and estimated travel times within the metro area. Motorists from outside the state of Georgia, who will be en route to metro Atlanta, should call 1-877-694-2511.
On the net: www.511ga.org