Memorial Day revelers hit the road, water too

May 25, 2012 (CHICAGO)

High gas prices are not keeping people home for this holiday weekend. Chicagoans hit the roads early Friday morning to get a jump on Memorial Day gridlock.

"We're getting an early start, and so hopefully we'll get ahead of a lot of the traffic," said traveler Megan Anderson.

AAA actually expects to see an increase in drivers on the road. A lot of folks say they will try to save money in other places, like finding lower hotel rates or by staying with relatives.

AAA projects 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend. That is up 1.2 percent from one year ago. A survey of travelers found 53 percent saying gas prices will not impact their travel plans.

"We are staying close because of gas prices and then we're going to go to the beach, Illinois State Beach in Zion," said traveler Angela Rio.

In the Chicago metro area, the average price for a gallon of gas is about $4.10; a year ago it was $4.23.

On the water, the Chicago Police Department will have to seven boats patrolling Chicago's waterways this Memorial Day weekend. So will the Coast Guard and fire department. They are all keeping an eye out for bad behavior.

AAA's survey found that more than 7 percent of holiday travelers -- or more than 2.5 million people -- will fly during the holiday weekend. That is down 5.5 percent from last year.

Midway's busiest day is going to be Friday with more than 67,000 travelers. O'Hare had its big rush Thursday with about 260,000 passengers passing through the world's third-busiest airport.

The number of travelers passing through Chicago's two international airports over Memorial Day weekend is expected to increase to 1.5 million. The Chicago Department of Aviation says the figure represents a nearly 3 percent jump from last year's holiday travel numbers at O'Hare and Midway.

The smaller Midway airport is expected to see the biggest increase over the six-day travel period that started Thursday. The passenger count there is anticipated to rise 3.5 percent to more than 444,000.

Of course, many are enjoying staycations, and Chicago's lakefront was already filling up early Friday afternoon. The swim season is officially under way and lifeguards are back on the beach.

If you're looking for local fun, Saturday is Chicago's Memorial Day Parade, which kicks off at noon on State and Lake.

And, on Sunday Morning, cyclists will get the chance to have Lake Shore Drive all to themselves. The roadway is shut down for "Bike the Drive."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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