By Mac Cerullo
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Newburyport residents hitting the road for the holiday weekend will have plenty of company, as reports indicate that Labor Day traffic will increase nationally by more than a million people compared to last year.
According to AAA, the national travel assistance company, there will be 34.1 million Americans traveling over Labor Day weekend, up from an estimated 32.7 million last year, and of this year’s travelers, 85 percent of them will be traveling by car.
“That translates into 29.2 million people, and that’s up 4.3 percent from last year,” said John Paul, a spokesperson for AAA. “So looking at that, there are going to be certain times where there are a lot of people on the road.”
Paul said the heaviest traffic will occur at the usual peak times, which include Friday afternoon and evening, Saturday morning and then again on Monday night. People who are planning on traveling should remember to check their fluids and tires before leaving, and if traffic jams could be an issue, people shouldn’t wait until they’re in traffic to fill up their tanks.
“Be patient if there are traffic jams, and allow plenty of time,” Paul said. “If you’re going to be in an area with lots of traffic, fill up your tank first. Don’t head up to Boston or Winnipesaukee with a quarter of a tank.”
As far as gas is concerned, travelers will benefit from the recent decline in gas prices over the past few weeks. Paul said Boston’s average gas price is currently around $3.67, and while the prices are a few cents higher on the North Shore and on Cape Cod, the average trend has been positive.
“For people heading up that way, there is a little difference, but gas prices, it’s that steady decline we’ve seen in gas prices over the past few weeks that gives people a sense of encouragement,” Paul said.
He added that for those headed north, New Hampshire’s average price is currently around $3.62. The prices around Manchester are slightly below that, and in the Portsmouth/Rochester area the average is closer to $3.64, he said.
Those who choose to stay local over the holiday weekend should still have plenty to do, as the weekend will feature a variety of live performances, most notably the annual Riverfront Festival.
Thousands are expected to come out for the free concert, which is being headlined by Matt Nathanson and hosted by The River 92.5 radio station. The show will run from noon until dusk on Saturday at Market Landing Park, and Nathanson is expected to follow other acts such as AJ Edwards, Satellite, Brett Dennen and The Lone Bellow.
Market Landing Park will also host a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Labor Day. The free Brown Box Theatre Project production will begin at 2 p.m. and is scheduled to go on rain or shine.
Rain could be a possibility for Monday too, although forecasts indicate the heavier showers shouldn’t come until later in the day. Other than that, the weather should be pleasant throughout the weekend, with temperatures remaining in the low 80s during the day with lows in the high 60s at night, according to Weather.com.