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Nearly 2.8M NYers expected to travel Memorial Day Weekend. Here’s what times to avoid

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The unofficial start to summer is inching closer, and travel is expected to boom past pre-pandemic levels for the first time, which could cause more headaches on the roads for the estimated 2.8 million New York residents looking to get away, according to a new forecast report by the AAA.

About 2.5 million of those New Yorkers will be driving to their destination, which is the highest number projected for the state since the AAA tracking began in 2000. Across the U.S., over 43 million travelers are predicted to leave home from May 23 through 27.

Airports are also bracing for a spike with an expected 3.5 million passengers this holiday weekend, increasing almost 5% over last year, based on the summary.

“We’re projecting an additional 1 million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means that we’re moving beyond pandemic-era lulls but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead,” said Alec Slatky, Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Northeast.

The worst time to hit the road in New York City will probably be Thursday and Friday afternoon, with the commuter rush hour crowd. From data collected last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bridges and tunnels processed over 60,000 transactions per hour between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday.

The Brooklyn-bound Verrazzano Bridge had over 6,500 cars per hour most of the afternoon into early evening on Sunday with a similar pattern seen on Monday. The Staten Island-bound Verrazzano Bridge saw more than 8,000 cars per hour late afternoon Thursday.

The best time to head for home after the festivities will be around 7 p.m. Monday, when traffic is expected to be at its lowest, according to AAA.

With the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges, the busiest time to drive northbound is Saturday morning, followed by Sunday early afternoon. More than 8,000 cars per hour are expected between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The most active time to drive southbound on the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges is Thursday evening, followed by Sunday evening.

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