WASHINGTON — Maryland drivers should expect slightly higher numbers of motorists this holiday weekend than last Labor Day, when gas prices were an average of 13 cents higher in the state.
An estimated 490,000 Marylanders will drive more than 50 miles from their homes during the long weekend, according to a study conducted by the AAA with the Travel Institute of America. That’s up from the 485,000 that were expected to travel last Labor Day weekend.
“Even though the economy is softening, people want to get away,” said Myra Wieman, a manager of public affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Those refilling their tanks in Maryland will pay an average of $1.43 per gallon for regular unleaded self-serve gas, according to Thursday sales figures compiled in the Daily Fuel Gauge Report by the Oil Price Information Service. Nationally, the average price is $1.52 per gallon, the report said.
The most expensive gas in the state is in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, where prices averaged $1.50 per gallon. Still, that is 11 cents less than last year’s price at the same time.
The cheapest prices in Maryland are closer to the shore, with gas stations in Salisbury selling at about $1.35 per gallon. That is down from last year’s average of $1.56 a gallon, but up from the average $1.25 stations were charging last month.
“If you are traveling and getting near a resort town, you might want to gas up in Salisbury rather than Coastal Highway,” in Ocean City, Wieman said.
But at least one longtime businessman along the Coastal Highway said he is not expecting a boom year.
“We’re busy, but it’s not like it used to be,” said Jason Whitman, a seventh-generation Ocean City resident and manager of the Shore Stop Mobil.
Whitman said that many families leave the beach as early as the Thursday before Labor Day, because of the beginning of the school year and a desire to spend the last weekend of summer at home, rather than driving to and from the beach.
For those who will drive this weekend, the Maryland State Highway Administration will temporarily halt construction to relieve the burden of extra traffic. Construction around the state, aside from emergency roadwork, stopped Friday night and will resume Tuesday morning.
“We want to make sure that we try not to restrict,” said Greg Phillips, team leader for the SHA in Southern Maryland. “We try to keep the capacity of the roadway over the holiday weekend.”
Highway officials said drivers should stay alert for equipment remaining at ongoing construction sites, although SHA plans to keep all driving lanes open for travel.