Nearly 49 million Americans are expected to travel away from home for July 4, with Wednesday expected to be the busiest travel day of the four-day weekend.
In Tennessee, 1 million motorists are expected to hit interstates and highways. Another 1.5 million people in Georgia are expected to do the same.
AAA forecasts the number of people traveling for the Independence Day holiday this year will be up 4.1% from a year ago to the highest number since the auto club began keeping records in 2000. The number of Americans traveling by car is projected to increase by 1.9 million people to 41.4 million, and will likely create on Wednesday the most congestion as travelers seek to get out of town to summertime destinations.
"As Independence Day approaches, it's time for the much loved family road trip and this year will be one for the record books, with more Americans than ever planning vacations," said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel. "This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel."
Twidale said low unemployment, robust consumer spending and rising disposable incomes are all encouraging more consumers to invest their hard-earned money in travel this summer.
INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts drivers could face delays as much as four times that of a normal commute.
"With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around our major metros," said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. "Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road."
Most of those traveling out of town will do so by car and, despite an increase in gas prices over the past couple of weeks, Gasbuddy.com surveys indicate the average price of regular gas in Chattanooga is still down 16.1 cents a gallon from a year ago.
AAA told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that several factors contributed to this week's gas price increase. Rising tensions between the United States and Iran, a fire at a Philadelphia refinery and optimism over the possibility of a U.S.-China trade deal all played a role.
BY THE NUMBERS
› Automobiles: Most travelers — 41.4 million — will hit the road, the most on record for the holiday and 4.3% more than last year.
› Planes: 3.96 million people will take to the skies, the highest number on record and 5.3% more than last year.
› Trains, buses and cruise ships: Travel across these sectors will increase by 0.6% to 3.55 million passengers.
"A major factor driving the increase includes the upcoming Independence Day holiday, which is expected to be a high-demand travel period," AAA spokeswoman Montrae Waiters told the AJC.
Here's what you should know before hitting the road.
Starting at noon Wednesday, Tennessee Department of Transportation officials are suspending construction-related lane closures to help with the traffic influx. That will extend through 6 a.m. Monday to provide "maximum capacity" for holiday travelers.
But TDOT officials are cautioning that motorists will still face some long-term lane closures at construction project sites. And while lane closure activity will be stopped, workers may be in construction zones. Reduced speed limits in work zones still will be in effect.
In 2016, three Tennessee Department of Transportation workers were struck and killed by passing motorists.
People speeding through work zones could face a fine of $250-$500.
Transportation officials in Georgia said roadwork will be postponed across the Peach State until after the holiday weekend. The suspension will last from noon Wednesday through 10 p.m. Sunday.
It's going to be hot.
Thursday will see a high of 97 with some scattered storms and a low of 71, according to WRCB-TV Channel 3 meteorologist Brittany Beggs. There will be a possibility of storms later in the afternoon, she said on her weather blog.
Friday and the weekend will be about the same, with temperatures reaching the 90s and a chance of storms each day. The danger is the heat index, which could reach the upper 90s and 100s.
Don't forget to stay hydrated and pack your sunscreen if you're going to be outside.
GOING DOWNTOWN FOR THE FIREWORKS?
People parking downtown will get a break from the meters on Thursday.
In honor of the July Fourth holiday, motorists will not need to pay at parking meters, according to the Chattanooga Parking Authority.
Other rules still apply: no parking in bus or loading zones, yellow curb areas or no-parking areas; no parking in handicap spots without a permit; and no parking in the Fort Wood residential district.
More information is available at chattanoogaparking.org.
For those using public transportation, CARTA will not run its fixed-route bus service or North Shore shuttle on July 4.
The downtown shuttle will run its holiday schedule from 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., according to a news release. The CARTA Care-A-Van will also operate on a holiday schedule.
For more information, call 423-629-1473 or visit www.gocarta.org.