HUBBARD, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s the first big holiday weekend since all those COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and it begins Thursday evening. Those keeping an eye on the traveling public are hoping people will remember to stay safe.
If you’re planning to travel this long holiday weekend, you won’t be alone, not by a long shot.
The Ohio Department of Transportation and AAA are predicting more than two million people will be traveling between July 1 and 5 just in the Buckeye State. Roughly 95% of them will be driving.
ODOT, the motor club and the Ohio State Highway Patrol are reminding people to be extra careful this weekend.
“If you do plan on going out, what we do ask is that you ensure that everybody in your vehicle is buckled-up. That if you plan to partake in any festivities, that you ensure that you have a valid and sober ride home or you make arrangements ahead of time to ensure that you get home safely,” said Sgt. Nathan Dennis of OSHP.
Some local tourist attractions have seen business growing for months and getting even bigger.
With the worst of the pandemic now hopefully behind us, travel on Ohio highways this long holiday weekend is expected to be nearly as great as it was before all the lockdowns last year.
“We’re looking at travel to be the second-highest on record nationally and the third-highest on recent here in Ohio this Independence Day,” said Kimberly Shwind of AAA.
While the state is expecting so many more people on the road, businesses like Julia’s Bed and Breakfast in Hubbard say they’re off to their best year in a long, long time.
“June was our best ‘stay-and-play’ business on record,” said Bill Rabel, manager of Julia’s Bed and Breakfast.
Rabel says business at the B&B and the adjoining Pine Lakes Golf Course have actually increased over the last year, drawing travelers to stay at the inn and play at courses around the area from neighboring states like Pennsylvania and New York with tougher COVID-19 restrictions as well as the rest of Ohio.
“But our business expanded out to New Jersey, to Chicago, as far away as Virginia, Washington, D.C. because people could drive here,” Ravel said.
Even the inn itself became a destination for locals who were just looking for a little stay-cation.
“It was ‘Hey, we can’t really travel anywhere. We wanna get away from the kids for the night,'” Rabel said.
Although Julia’s is nearly sold out for the weekend, with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions all across the country, Rabel sees business continuing to grow.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation expects more than 5.7 million people to be taking trips on the PA Turnpike during the Independence Day holiday through next week.
“We are anticipating 5.7 million customers traveling our roadway from Friday, July 2 through Sunday, July 11,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “The traffic during this 10-day period represents a near return to pre-pandemic traffic levels and more than a one million increase over last year’s traffic numbers during the pandemic.
“Additionally, speeding, and distracted driving have become more acute since the pandemic. Travelers should be alert, properly prepared, and expect some delays. Friday afternoons are likely to be peak travel times.”
The significant daily traffic breakdown for upcoming days is estimated as follows:
- July 2 — 690,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 3 — 525,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 4 — 420,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 5 — 525,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 6 & 7— 600,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 8 — 625,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 9 — 675,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 10 — 540,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system;
- July 11 — 535,000 vehicles are expected to travel the system.
The PA Turnpike will have patrols and safety teams throughout the system who are there to assure travelers get safely to their destination. That means responding to travelers in need of assistance, as well as, taking action against illegal or unsafe behaviors.
To help accommodate heavier holiday traffic, the Turnpike will suspend maintenance and construction work and have all available lanes open in each direction beginning 5 a.m. on Friday, July 2 through 11 p.m. on Sunday, July 11.