Wisconsin’s Labor Day weekend has an extra day this year, at least from the standpoint of action on the roads. But weather is expected to be great, road construction is limited and gas prices are not expected to spike, so there are plenty of positive factors if you plan to be out and about.
Thursday features the Brewers at Miller Park against the rival St. Louis Cardinals at 3 p.m., a Green Bay Packers preseason game at Lambeau Field at 7 p.m. and the Wisconsin Badgers’ first football game of the year vs. UNLV, in Madison and also at 7 p.m.
Combine that action with families pulling out of town that evening for their Labor Day getaway — or hurtling up from Illinois for a weekend “Up North” — and the state’s major thoroughfares could be strained.
“We’re expecting heavier traffic and we will be monitoring it,” said Sgt. Wendy Younglove of the Wisconsin State Patrol. “We hope that people will travel the speed limit but we will have increased patrols in the construction zones, mainly on Highway 94 near the Wisconsin-Illinois state line and through Milwaukee. There’s a lot of congestion in the Milwaukee area around the airport so that will cause some increased slowdowns. People need to plan accordingly and allow extra time to get through that area.”
Primary work zones still active in southeastern Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, are:
- I-94 from Russell Road to the Wisconsin state line, 1 mile. Lane reductions due to construction.
- I-43/I-894 between Loomis Road and I-43/I-894/I-94 Mitchell Interchange, 1.6 miles and I-94 between College and Howard avenues, 4 miles. The ramp from I 894 eastbound to I-43/I-94 northbound is closed with a detour via Loomis Road and Howard Avenue. Lane restrictions along I-94 between the Mitchell Interchange and College Avenue, both directions.
- I-94 at Waukesha County P, 1 mile. Lane shift with two lanes open in each direction on one side of the median.
- WIS 83 between Waukesha County NN and WIS 59, 6 miles. Reconstruction has closed highway with detour via I-43, WIS 164, and WIS 59.
- US 18 (Bluemound Road) between Moorland Road and Mayfair Road (Hwy 100). Lane restrictions, two lanes in each direction remain open.
In addition, as motorists head up to Wisconsin’s north woods areas, they can expect slowdowns in construction areas around Sheboygan.
“They’re trying to have all of the lanes opened up on Highway 43 as much as they can through the construction zones but the Sheboygan area has caused backups,” said Younglove. “Drivers should use extra care through Sheboygan.”
There are other workzones active around the state, be sure to check the DOT’s map and chart before leaving town. For up-to-the-minute information on delays due to incidents or work zones, dial 511 on your mobile phone or visit 511WI on the web. You also can check out the live webcams from a variety of locations around the Milwaukee area.
Overall, Travel Expected to Dip Slightly
The number of travelers, both nationally and statewide, is expected to be down a bit from last year but higher gas prices are not being cited as the reason why.
According to AAA, approximately 31.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, a 2.4 percent decrease from the 32.3 million who traveled last year. In Wisconsin, more than 660,000 people will be traveling for the weekend, down 2.6 percent from 2010. Of those, nearly 600,000 people plan to travel by car while another 25,000 will travel by air.
Why the slight dip in the number of holiday travelers? Experts say it’s the uncertain economic outlook, including slumping consumer confidence and a drop in discretionary income.
“The decrease is a pretty consistent trend to what we’ve been seeing for the other summer travel holidays, both Memorial Day and the Fourth of July,” said Pam Moen, spokeswoman for AAA Wisconsin. “We’ve either seen travel flat or down slightly compared to prior years.
“Gas prices aren’t an issue,” she said. “Gas prices on average in Wisconsin are about $1.06 more than they were a year ago but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to deter people from traveling for the holiday.”
According to WisconsinGasPrices.com the average price of regular unleaded gas in the metropolitan Milwaukee area Wednesday was $3.72.8 per gallon, about three cents less than one month ago.
Those who choose to travel can also look forward to paying more to stay at a hotel this weekend. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are up 6 percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $148 per night compared to $139 last year. On the rental car front, the news is better with rental rates averaging $43, a seven percent decrease from last year.
State Tourism Looking Good
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism is looking forward to a busy weekend, with travelers crisscrossing the state to a wide variety of events and attractions.
“Anecdotally, we’ve heard from tourism officials around the state that our summer has been really great,” said Danielle Johnson, spokeswoman for the department. “I don’t see a reason for that to not continue. The weather is supposed to be good this weekend and I’m sure people will be out and traveling with that extra day off.”
Popular destinations this weekend in the Badger State will include the Wisconsin Dells, Door County, the Packers Hall of Fame in Green Bay and a variety of entertaining events and attractions in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin.
State Patrol on Alert
Of course, with all those travelers hitting the roadways, the Wisconsin State Patrol will be out in force to keep things moving along safely. The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign continues through the weekend. According to a press release from the DOT, eight people were killed in Labor Day traffic accidents in Wisconsin last year.
“Throughout the state, law enforcement officers are arresting drunken drivers. Last year in Wisconsin, there were more than 40,000 convictions for drunken driving. But despite the risk of arrest, not to mention a violent crash, too many people still drive while impaired,” said State Patrol Maj. Sandy Huxtable, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety.