This Labor Day, as people head out to the lake, beach or mountains to enjoy the last unofficial day of summer, experts suggest a few tips to make the trip easier and safer.
For those hitting the state’s highways this weekend, the California Department of Transportation is trying to make driving a little less stressful by suspending all roadwork that requires a lane closure.
The temporary halt on roadwork began at noon Friday; work resumes at noon Tuesday.
“We try not to have too big of a negative impact on people’s travel plans,” Caltrans spokesman Cory Burkarth said.
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Although AAA Northern California no longer tracks travel data for Labor Day, it historically has been a busy travel day. In 2014, an estimated 3.9 million people in the state traveled on Labor Day.
Burkarth also said that with an increase in traffic comes the potential for brush fires. Motorists need to make sure they are not dragging chains from their cars or trucks that may cause a spark and ignite a grass fire. Also, don’t toss cigarette butts from the car.
And just in case you think the California Highway Patrol is also taking the weekend off — it isn’t.
CHP spokeswoman Traci Gallian said the department will be in maximum enforcement mode from Friday through Monday, looking hard for drivers under the influence. The CHP also will be enforcing all traffic laws as well as focusing on speeding and seat-belt use.
Gallian’s best advice for drivers: slow down, carry water, a cellphone and charger in your car, make sure your car has been properly maintained, and lock down loose items.
“Most importantly, be courteous to other drivers and take your time,” Gallian said. “If you don’t get to your location, you can’t enjoy the holiday.”
Fortunately for car travelers, gas prices have stabilized in California, although the state still has some of the highest prices in the nation.
The current state average per gallon is $2.68, down from a month ago at $2.71 and significantly less than a year ago, when it was $3.32. In Fresno, the average is $2.66. A year ago it was $3.19.
“We do not expect any kind of uptick in gas prices this Labor Day weekend,” said Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA Northern California. “And historically, prices start to drop after Labor Day.”
That’s all good news for people planning weekend getaways.
This weekend, crowds are expected in mountain lake communities and national parks where higher water levels and piqued interest in the National Park Service centennial have attracted record crowds throughout the summer.
“This season has been quite busy because the water is so great,” said Kim Lawson, creative director for Visit Yosemite Madera County. The best way to experience Bass Lake is by boat because the water is so high and the shoreline is limited, Lawson said.
Barbecuing and boating are at the top of the activity list at the lake. Other Labor Day activities include the final Jazz on the Lake concert for the 2016 series and a Labor Day poolside barbecue at Tenaya Lodge, Lawson said.
Traffic to and around Yosemite National Park will be heavy. Lawson suggests visitors get into the park before 9 a.m. or hop on a YARTS bus, a transportation system from Fresno to Yosemite.
“Be safe and aware, and be cautious,” Lawson said. “Everyone can have a good time.”
If you plan to go camping, remember that it is first-come, first-served camping at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Space is expected to be very limited and was expected to fill early over the holiday weekend. In addition, some campgrounds will start to close for the season just after Labor Day.
Air travel is up nationwide, with 15.6 million passengers expected to fly over the seven-day travel week that began Wednesday and ends Tuesday. Friday was the busiest travel day. That’s a 4 percent increase in passengers from last year, according to Airlines for America, a trade organization for U.S. airlines.
Most airlines at Fresno Yosemite International Airport reported flights at or near capacity, said spokeswoman Vikkie Calderon.
Passengers are reminded to arrive at the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight departure (three hours for international flights). Wait times may be longer at the ticket counter or through security during peak morning departures, Calderon said. Also check the Transportation Safety Administrations’ rules for liquids and aerosols, and prohibited items for carry-ons and checked baggage, she said.
Motorists arriving early to pick up family or friends at the airport can use the newly expanded cellphone waiting area, located slightly past the airport entrance to the right before the curve, to park and wait until passengers arrive at the front curb.