WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – If you’re planning on enjoying the Fourth of July weekend here in Wilmington and the surrounding beach towns, you aren’t alone!
The city of Wilmington, along with AAA of the Carolinas, say they are expecting plenty of travelers to head to the region, which means you can expect to wait in traffic.
And it’s going to be busy. Between the city’s grand opening of the new Riverfront Park to fireworks celebrations around the county, you’re going to want to plan some extra time to get where you need to go.
As a tourist destination, it’s not unusual to see more cars on the road, and more people enjoying the Port City and the surrounding beach towns, but, the past year has been anything but normal due to the pandemic. With restrictions easing and vaccines rolling out, more and more people are comfortable with traveling, according to Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA of the Carolinas. There is already a big change in the number of people hitting the roads this summer.
“It’s night and day, travel has gone up. We’re talking about the Fourth of July holiday, 40 percent compared to last year. Now that is not pre-pandemic levels but it is right there. And even though we forecast that there are going to be 1.2 million North Carolinians on the roads this holiday weekend, that number could be higher,” she said.
The city of Wilmington’s festivities for Independence Day will slow anyone planning on heading downtown this weekend.
“It’s not ideal but you know we’re having a huge celebration, people are going to have a great time so practice patience and safety, and we’ll get you out of there as soon as we can,” Jennifer Dandron, a city spokesperson, said.
While the sheer number of cars on the roads will lead to increased wait times, that’s not the only reason to plan for delays in Wilmington.
“There are going to be road closures so we’ll have some roads closing at 6 p.m., and more closing at 9 p.m., that way we can keep it safe, we can keep people going in the correct direction — all that information is available on our website. But again, 1-to-2-hour delays should be expected,” Dandron said.
With the surge of people back on the roads, Wright said there are some unexpected effects of people being stuck at home for a year or more.
“What we are seeing as the world is opening up, a lot of people haven’t been driving right, so you have got to realize that people are getting so excited and getting so eager behind the wheel so what we are seeing is people speeding more, there’s more aggressive driving happening, Wright said.
More traffic is not the only thing AAA is seeing, gas prices are also on the rise as more people hit the roads this summer, as are other costs, but don’t expect that to dissuade people from traveling.
“People are just so eager to travel and spend time with their family and their friends, their loved ones. So, you are going to experience higher gas prices, you’re going to experience higher hotel rates, rental car rates, it’s going to be more expensive to travel but we are still going to see a huge huge number of people traveling,” Wright said.
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