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Study ranks July 4 vacation bottlenecks

Oregon, Virginia top list of U.S. trouble spots

From Julie Vallese
CNN

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AAA estimates 33.9 million people will be on the roads during the July 4 holiday weekend.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans taking to the roads during the July 4 holiday weekend are almost certain to encounter a traffic bottleneck somewhere, but the biggest is likely to be west of Portland, Oregon, the American Highway Users Alliance said Thursday.

The road between Oregon's Willamette Valley, where Portland sits, and the Pacific coast is known for recreation, wineries and beauty.

This weekend, it will also be known for slow traffic, the group said in a study titled "Are We There Yet?"

Interstate 64 in the Tidewater region of southeastern Virginia is second on the group's list of vacation bottlenecks, followed by the Maryland-Delaware shore, Branson, Missouri, and North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore, California's Napa Valley, the Amish country of Pennsylvania and the Catskill Mountains in New York.

"Part of slowing down is about relaxing," said Greg Cohen, president of the group. "But slowing down because you're stuck in traffic is very frustrating."

An estimated 33.9 million people are expected to travel by motor vehicle during the holiday weekend, according to AAA.

For its study, the American Highway Users Alliance defined bottlenecks as areas of road that cannot adequately handle peak-time traffic.

It decided to take a look at where vacation bottlenecks occur after reviewing recent census data showing that -- while job commutes represent about 18 percent of American automobile trips -- social and recreational trips represent about 27 percent.

"We're noticing that people are taking shorter-length trips, but more of them, because our society is getting busier," Cohen said. "The last thing you want to do is when you only have three or four days to travel on a road trip is to spend more and more time sitting in the car to get there.

"These are the few times of the year that people do get to relax, so we want to make that trip as safe and easy as possible."

Fixing the bottleneck problem would not have to take a lot of money, the alliance and AAA said. Both say better placement of traffic signals, more visible center lines and adding left turn lanes would ease congestion without major construction.

The report says bottlenecks not only take time away from day trips and vacations, but also cause crashes and waste fuel.

"The issues can range from aggressive drivers who are just trying to get through that one traffic light thinking it will liberate them from all the traffic, to drowsy drivers because that three-hour trip actually takes four or five hours," said Justin McNaull of AAA.

"They start to nod off because they don't take the breaks that they should."

To make trips go more smoothly, AAA recommends that drivers avoid peak travel times -- get away during the week if possible, instead of driving on Fridays and Saturdays. Not only are fewer people on the road on weekdays, but hotels are often less expensive, it says.

In addition, AAA recommends people take breaks, get rest and provide plenty of backseat activities for children.

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