Uptick in travel expected over Labor Day weekend, roadwork halte - New York News

Uptick in travel expected over Labor Day weekend, roadwork halted

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Associated Press) -

The Illinois Department of Transportation says it will suspend non-emergency roadwork over the Labor Day weekend to help reduce congestion and speed traffic.

Thousands of motorists are expected to hit the roads in Illinois during the three-day holiday.

The state agency is also giving advance notice of lane closures that will remain in place.

The halt in construction will start at 3 p.m. Friday through the end of Monday.

Officials are urging drivers to slow down, obey speed limits and drive carefully through work zone. Construction zone speed limits remain in effect even when work crews are not present.

The auto club AAA forecasts that 34.7 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home by car or plane over a five-day period ending on Labor Day. That would be a 1.3 percent increase over 2013. Air fares are 2 percent higher than a year ago, but motorists will catch a small break - gasoline is $3.44 per gallon, down 15 cents from Labor Day 2013, according to AAA.

Officials are expecting more than a million travelers to pass through the city's airports over Labor Day weekend.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is anticipating more than 1.2 million passengers at O'Hare and Midway international airports between Friday and Tuesday, the department said in a statement.

Airlines project that more than 950,000 passengers will travel through O'Hare during the holiday weekend, officials said. Friday is expected to be the airport's busiest day, with an estimated 225,000 passengers.

Airlines at Midway are anticipating nearly 320,000 passengers over the weekend, with 74,000 expected on Friday, the department said.

Both airports will provide stages with live entertainment for passengers from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, officials said. Midway will also feature “Airline Ambassadors” offering travelers free lemonade on Friday and Saturday.

Separately, a trade group for the nation's big airlines predicts that air travel over the Labor Day weekend will rise 2 percent from the same holiday last year.

If correct, the forecast would be more good news for the airlines. Nine leading U.S. carriers earned $3.8 billion in the first half of this year - up from $1.6 billion a year ago - allowing them to pay down debt, reward shareholders and order new planes.

Those airlines are running profit margins of 5 percent, up from 2.1 percent in the first half of last year, according to the trade group Airlines for America. Revenue rose 6 percent, while their largest expense, fuel, fell 2.4 percent. The airlines are Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United.

Airlines are making record profits even as more and more flights are late or never take off. In the first half of 2014, U.S. airlines posted their worst on-time rate since 2008 and the highest cancellation rate since 2000, according to government figures.

The airline group's economist, John Heimlich, told reporters on a conference call that bad weather was the biggest factor in delays and cancellations. He said that despite difficult weather and high federal taxes, "the airlines have coped very well."

The airline group predicted Thursday that 14 million people would fly on U.S. airlines during the seven days ending Sept. 2, the day after Labor Day. The busiest day is expected to be the Friday before the holiday weekend.

The Associated Press and Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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