Virus, wildfires impact Labor Day travel plans

This year, AAA did not conduct its usual scientific survey to find out exactly how many travelers are expected.

Posted: Sep 3, 2021 11:24 AM
Updated: Sep 3, 2021 11:39 AM

EUGENE, Ore. – A surging Delta variant, wildfires and higher gas prices are just a few of the issues facing drivers ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

Still, Marie Dodds with AAA Oregon said it will be a busy travel weekend, but likely not as busy as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

“The big reasons for that, of course, is we're seeing a surge in COVID cases due to the Delta variant,” Dodds said. “That's making a lot of folks think twice about traveling.”

This year, AAA did not conduct its usual scientific survey to find out exactly how many travelers are expected. Dodds said the data takes several weeks to gather, and the results would have likely changed by the time the survey was completed.

“It's really tough to put an exact number on how many people will be traveling, because when you have things line up like they have for Labor Day, people tend to wait until the very last minute,” Dodds said.

Some AAA members said they are waiting until Friday or even Saturday morning before hitting the road. For Oregonians, the Oregon coast is the top destination, followed by Central Oregon, Las Vegas, Washington and California. Around 93% of people are expected to head by car to their destination.

Drivers will also be paying the most expensive gas prices for the Labor Day holiday in seven years. The average in Oregon is $3.87 per gallon. However, prices locally are settling down and even starting to drop in some cases.

Dodds said it’s also important to be aware of wildfire activity around the northwest.

“Don't assume that it's business as usual, because we do see a lot of closures and impacts,” Dodds said.

Indeed, the Oregon Department of Transportation issued a similar advisory this week.

“Debris cleanup from last September’s devastating wildfires has complicated the holiday and summer road picture. Work continues in key corridors connecting the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys to Central Oregon and the coast,” the agency said in a news release.

Wildfire impacted routes include Highway 138 in Douglas County, Highway 22 in the Santiam Canyon, Highway 18 east of Lincoln City, and Highway 126 along the McKenzie River. There are also around 30 active fires in the state.

Labor Day is also an especially deadly time because of drunk or impaired driving. Eugene Police and other law enforcement agencies have announced extra patrols for DUIIs.

For more information on Oregon roads, check tripcheck.com

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