DOVER — Even with wet, cool weather over Memorial Day weekend, traffic totals in Delaware were close to pre-COVID 19 levels at the end of last month, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation.
“Certainly, the weather was not ideal, however, traffic volumes were certainly still close to 2019 levels with Route 1 traffic counts only down about 3%, and I-95 volume down about 6%,” said Charles “C.R.” McLeod, director of communications for DelDOT. “We actually had a 20% increase of traffic on U.S. 301 from 2019. So, overall, it did fall within our expectations.”
From May 28 to 31, 506,780 vehicles passed through the Del. 1 toll booths, while 399,092 went through the tolls on I-95 and 74,387 traveled through the tolls on Route 301.
The numbers met DelDOT’s expectations of greater traffic volumes this summer.
Prior to Memorial Day weekend, Mr. McLeod said, “We are expecting heavy traffic volumes across Delaware, from the interstate system in the north to the main arteries connecting to the beach towns in Sussex County, residents and travelers should be prepared for pre-pandemic levels of traffic.”
DelDOT got the busy holiday weekend it was anticipating.
Mr. McLeod noted the difference in toll revenue from pre-pandemic 2019 to the emergence of COVID in the spring of 2020.
On Memorial Day weekend two years ago, a total of 523,420 vehicles passed through the Del. 1 toll booths, compared to 315,935 last year, a decline in traffic volumes of 60%.
There were similar reductions at the toll booths on I-95, which had 425,644 vehicles pass through in 2019 and just 222,891 last year, as well as the Route 301 tolls, which dropped from 61,930 vehicles in ’19 to 42,255 last year.
However, this year, summer trends are indicative that people are feeling more comfortable traveling as COVID rates are on the decline.
State restrictions are also decreasing, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance says that fully vaccinated people can resume activities that they did prior to the pandemic, including domestic travel at low risk to themselves, while taking proper precautions.
Ken Grant, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said there might be a new kind of pandemic on the horizon this summer — something called “Revenge Travel.”
“Optimism coinciding with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and growing consumer confidence are fueling a strong desire to travel this summer as the U.S. takes steps toward putting the pandemic behind us,” Mr. Grant said. “The AAA poll shows that Delaware residents have a pent-up demand for quick getaways and even longer, more extravagant trips — so-called ‘Revenge Travel.’
“COVID-related safety is still a factor for many travelers, some of whom may be venturing out for the first time in over a year.”
Gas prices dip slightly
While the national average for a gallon of gas is at $3 per gallon, Delaware’s average cost for gas inched down to $2.97 a gallon on Monday.
AAA Mid-Atlantic said gas prices remain up, in part due to the Colonial Pipeline issues and the reopening of many businesses around the United States. Prices are up more than a dollar in every region except Central Atlantic from a year ago, with the Lower Atlantic (Southeastern U.S.) up nine cents on average.
AAA said it anticipates gas prices will continue to increase consistently through the summer. Diesel is above $3 nationally except on the Gulf Coast and has topped $4 per gallon in California.