Traffic in Alabama will be heavy for the Labor Day weekend with college football fans traveling to games and beach condos booked, but gas prices aren't expected to increase substantially, if at all.
State troopers advised motorists not to plan tight travel schedules.
“When it is a holiday weekend like that, you should expect heavier than usual traffic, and people should plan accordingly," said Robyn Bryan, media relations manager for troopers. "Maybe leave a few minutes early, so that if there is a traffic jam you’re not going to be late to your destination."
The Alabama Department of Transportation said it will have no temporary lane closures on interstates from noon Friday through Monday. Lowered speed limits may remain in place in construction areas due to roadway surface changes or the presence of construction material, ALDOT said in a news release.
Clay Ingram, AAA-Alabama spokesperson, said Labor Day is the only holiday that his organization doesn't make specific travel predictions for, but previous 2021 holidays offer guidance.
“So far this year, all of our other travel holidays have been some of the busiest of all time," he said. “Travel has been back this year.”
With holidays and travel, gas prices usually increase, but that may not be the case this year. Ingram said gas prices had dropped about 3 cents per gallon over the past couple of weeks, but then Hurricane Ida disrupted fuel distribution.
“Part of the Gulf Coast pipeline was shut down for safety reasons and precautions,” Ingram said, and that will affect the prices and availability.
By the time Labor Day weekend arrives, he said, “we may see a little bump in prices … but if we do, it won’t be very much. I would say 5 cents to 10 cents a gallon at most, and it could be no increase at all,” Ingram said.
Flying out of Huntsville is not expected to be as busy as the roads. “It’s not our biggest holiday of the year,” said Barbie Peek, director of business development at Huntsville International Airport.
However, if flying, there is a mask mandate. According to Peek, “You will have to wear your mask from your departing city, on the plane, through the checkpoint, and to your destination.”
The beach may be the most popular destination for travelers Labor Day weekend. “Of the people that are looking to travel, there seems to be a much higher percentage of people that are heading to the beach rather than other destinations,” said Ingram. “The demand for going to the beach is almost double what it used to be."
Kay Maghan, public relations manager for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, said demand appears strong on Alabama's coast.
“Occupancy projections right now for the weekend, just vacation rentals, is in the upper 70%,” she said. The occupancy for condos and beach houses can be projected, unlike hotel rooms, she said.
According to Maghan, the July Fourth weekend is the busiest since it is at the peak of summer. However, “Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day are the big weekends for summer season,” she said.
The occupancy projections for 2021 are about the same as 2020, and both are higher than 2019.
The hurricane did not have a negative impact in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area. “We did not have any major damage from Hurricane Ida. Everything’s open,” said Maghan.
Motorists also will be on the road for the opening weekend of the college football season. Alabama will play Miami on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. Auburn is at home Saturday night against Akron, and Alabama A&M has a home game against South Carolina State. North Alabama was originally scheduled to play on the road Saturday, but damage from Ida moved the game against Southeastern Louisiana to Braly Stadium.
If staying in town for Labor Day, Decatur will host, for the fourth year, the Alabama Labor Day Cup on Saturday and Sunday at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex. Over 50 youth teams from across the Southeast will be coming to Decatur to compete.
The city will be without one of its staple events from past Labor Day weekends. The annual Battle for Decatur, which was held for 35 years at Point Mallard Park on Labor Day weekend, will return to Limestone County for a second consecutive year because of the pandemic. It will be Oct. 1-3 at 28868 Easter Ferry Road.
The city will have the final three days of Point Mallard Aquatic Center's season this weekend.