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Slightly fewer Mountain West residents are expected to travel this year during the extended July Fourth holiday mainly because its timing last year allowed many to turn it into a weeklong vacation, while this year many see it as perhaps a long weekend.
About 3.1 million Mountain West residents plan to travel 50 miles or more from home during the upcoming holiday, a 0.5 percent decrease from last year, according to a survey by the AAA travel services company.
"This anticipated decline is predominantly due to a shorter holiday period than in 2012, when the Fourth fell on a Wednesday, making it a weeklong vacation period that saw the second-highest volume of travel in the past 10 years," said AAA Utah spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough. July Fourth falls on a Thursday this year.
John Gleason, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said that agency plans to shut down all ongoing construction and repair projects in the state beginning Wednesday night through Sunday. "We are taking a little break, which should help holiday travel," he said.
AAA forecasts almost 2.5 million Mountain West residents will drive to reach their holiday destinations, a 0.3 percent decrease from last year.
Air travel is projected to increase by 0.6 percent, with 318,000 travelers expected to fly. It said more than 299,000 Mountain residents plan to travel by other modes of transportation, such as rail, bus and watercraft, a decrease of 2.9 percent from last year.
A typical Mountain West family of four is expected to spend an average of $591 over the holiday weekend, while the average road trip will cover 701 miles.
Nationally, AAA forecasts just over 40 million people will travel 50 miles or more during the July Fourth holiday weekend, a 0.8 percent decrease from last year.
Hotel rates at AAA Three Diamond lodgings increased 2 percent this year, averaging $119 per night. Weekend car rentals are forecasted to increase by 29 percent, to an average weekend rate of $58.
According to AAA's survey, the primary leisure activities for Mountain West residents celebrating the nation's birthday will be visiting family and friends, dining, hiking and biking, touring and sightseeing.
Allstate Insurance also warns that nationally, July Fourth has become the nation's deadliest day to travel on roads. It notes that Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data show that an average of 134 Americans have been killed in highway deaths on July Fourth between 2007 and 2011.