Holiday weekend will see heavy traffic, high gas prices

This July Fourth is set to be the busiest in several years

Motorists traveling for the Independence Day weekend should expect heavy traffic and the most expensive gasoline prices in years for the holiday period.

AAA projects that 34.8 million people will travel today through Sunday, the largest number for the July 4 holiday since 2007. Most will pay the most expensive gas prices in effect for the holiday since 2008.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike estimates that 2.7 million vehicles will take to the toll road, up from 2.5 million last year.

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline Tuesday in Pittsburgh was $3.851, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report. That is nearly 31 cents more than the price a year ago and nearly 18 cents more than the national average of $3.672.

Ryan McKivigan, sales manager for Butler Tires for Less, offered several tips for improving gas mileage.

Maintaining proper tire pressure can save drivers 15 cents per gallon, he said.

“It’s tempting to crank up the air conditioning as soon as you get in a hot car or roll the windows down and take advantage of the breeze on the highway. What most drivers don’t realize is that they should roll down the windows when they get in a car then roll them up and turn on the A/​C when driving faster than 55 mph,” he said.

Drivers can save 2 percent on gas mileage for every 100 pounds of needless gear they remove from their vehicles, he said. “You can be amazed how much stuff you can accumulate in your car — especially if you have a family — and it all adds up.”

Try to fit vacation gear inside the car; using a roof rack or cargo carrier increases drag on the vehicle, he said. Packing light and fitting everything in the car can improve fuel economy as much as 17 percent.

After filling up, twist the gas nozzle 180 degrees with it still in the tank “as there is likely an extra ounce or two of gas still in there,” Mr. McKivigan said. “You’ve already paid for it.” Readers can decide for themselves whether 3 to 6 cents of gas is worth that effort. offered these additional tips: Drive slower: Going 62 mph instead of 75 mph will cut fuel consumption about 15 percent, and use cruise control when possible.

The turnpike, expecting large traffic volume, has suspended construction zone restrictions through 6 a.m. Monday. Extra crews will be ready to handle emergencies, and state police plan increased patrols to curb speeding and enforce the no-texting law.

“Texting while driving and aggressive driving will not be tolerated, so motorists should expect to see our troopers out there in full force deterring this type of behavior,” said Capt. Gregory Bacher of Troop T, which patrols the turnpike.

Turnpike drivers can dial *11 on mobile phones in an emergency or use a call box on the road’s shoulder. Real-time traffic alerts for the turnpike are available by calling 1-866-976-TRIP (8747) or viewing the travel conditions map at TripTalk, a mobile app, will deliver voice alerts to drivers based on their location and can be downloaded for free at the turnpike website.

Traffic also will be heavy on the rivers, and the Coast Guard will enforce restrictions during the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta.

On Thursday, it will close part of the Allegheny River from 2-5 and 6:30-8 p.m. between the quay at Heinz Field and Mazeroski Way.

Part of the river will be closed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday from Heinz Field quay to the Clemente Bridge. The Allegheny will be completely closed from 2-3:30, 4:30-6 and 7- 8 p.m. from the quay to the Clemente Bridge. All three rivers will be closed from 9:30-11 p.m. during the fireworks display at the Point.

Stephen A. Zappala Jr., Allegheny County district attorney, last week announced that there will be stepped-up DUI enforcement including random sobriety checkpoints through the holiday weekend.

Jon Sch­mitz: jschmitz@post-ga­ or 412-263-1868.

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