Reporting Steve Sandberg
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – About 39 million drivers are expected to hit the roads for the July 4 holiday weekend and many have gotten an early start.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority estimated that 1.6 million cars were on the Garden State Parkway Thursday and 1.5 million today.
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But that doesn’t mean traffic will be any better for your evening commute.
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The American Automobile Association predicts those 39 million drivers will travel 50 miles or more for the holiday weekend.
The price of gas is also set to drop 5 cents in New Jersey today, but what drivers might be saving in gas, they’ll could make up for in tolls.
New Jersey drivers heading to Philadelphia for the Fourth of July festivities and Pennsylvanians returning from the Jersey shore after the holiday weekend may have some toll shock.
Tolls on the Delaware River Port Authority’s four Philadelphia-area bridges jumped a dollar to $5 today. Tolls are paid only by westbound drivers.
The cheaper rides on the New Jersey Turnpike also ended this morning for drivers whose E-ZPass transmitters were issued by other states.
Now, the price break is only for drivers with New Jersey-issued E-ZPasses.
Other toll road authorities have been making similar charges.
Only New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State Thruway offer off-peak discounts, but only to motorists with E-ZPass accounts from the customer service centers in that state.
High-speed E-ZPass lanes have also opened at the Interstate 95 toll plaza in Newark.
If you’re using mass transit for your holiday getaway, you’re in luck.
New Jersey Transit is adding early afternoon trains and buses for northern New Jersey commuters planning an early getaway.
Extra trains will operate on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Raritan Valley, Morris & Essex, Pascack Valley and Port Jervis rail lines starting at about 1 p.m.
Extra buses will operate from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on more than two dozen routes starting around noon.
Many past holiday drivers are becoming frequent flyers for this year’s Independence Day travel.
Air travel is up 9 percent over last year. The shift from the roads to the skies could be due to high gas prices around the Tri-state and the country.
“I think a lot of people are deciding now that a 200 mile drive, 300 mile drive is just costing too much with gas costing $4 a gallon,” said Sam “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz. “They’re looking at airline tickets and they’re saying ‘well it’s not that much more to fly than to drive so let’s just fly for those short trips.’”
Gridlock Sam says drivers should expect roads near airports to be clogged.
But no matter how you get there, experts say be careful.
“It’s the deadliest holiday weekend and the summer has some of the deadliest days of the year,” said Gridlock Sam. “A lot of new drivers on the road, a lot of drunk driving.”
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about 40 percent of fatal crashes during the July 4 weekend are alcohol related.
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