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Many expect to hit the road this weekend

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Labor Dayclosures

• County courts and offices in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties will be closed.

• The North Park Swimming Pool will be closed. The wave pools in Boyce Park, Settlers Cabin Park and South Park will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., marking the end of the 2013 season.

• Pittsburgh city offices will be closed. City garbage collection on Labor Day will be delayed by one day.

• Pittsburgh community centers and senior centers will be closed. The city's six regional swimming pools will be open, weather permitting, from 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and the Mellon Park Tennis Center will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Source: Tribune-Review research

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 11:17 p.m.
 

More than 34.1 million Americans are expected to travel over the Labor Day weekend, including more than 4.7 million in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey — the first time this year that there's been a year-over-year increase in holiday travel, officials said.

AAA and IHS Global Insight forecast that more travelers than last year will go at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, emboldened by increased consumer confidence and lower gas prices. The number of Labor Day vacationers is expected to go up 4.2 percent compared to last year, unlike Memorial Day or Independence Day when the number of travelers remained stagnant or decreased slightly, said Bevi Powell, vice president of AAA East Central.

“Perhaps people were postponing their vacations earlier this summer, waiting to see what the economy would be like,” Powell said.

Gas prices were lower than last year, with the average in the Pittsburgh region at $3.62 per gallon this week compared to $3.77 a gallon during the same week in 2012. The cost of gas doesn't usually dissuade people from traveling if they've already made plans, but it can leave them with less to spend on food, gifts and accommodations, Powell said.

Locally, iffy weather and a few long-term road closures could create some bottlenecks worth escaping.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service office in Moon predict a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the mid-80s, dipping to the low 80s on Monday but with a 40 to 45 percent chance of rain.

“It could create slick road conditions in heavy thunderstorms or cause traffic backups, especially on the interstates,” meteorologist Rihaan Gangat said on Wednesday. “We're not expecting any flooding issues just yet; it's too early to tell.”

Pittsburgh International Airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said scattered storms aren't usually enough to delay flights, but she urged air travelers to allow extra time for crowds at security checkpoints and to pack smart to get through faster.

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are preparing for an increase in travelers, with an estimated 2.7 million vehicles expected on the turnpike from Friday through Monday. To accommodate the traffic, all construction work will halt from 3 p.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. Tuesday so at least two lanes of travel will be open along the entire length of the highway.

PennDOT is suspending construction work for the weekend, though its contractors will stay on the job until Friday afternoon, and a few long-term lane restrictions or closures will remain in place around the region.

Steve Cowan, spokesman for the district covering Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, said construction work at the Liberty and Squirrel Hill tunnels will stop during the weekend, but there will be closures of all northbound lanes on West Carson Street between the West End Circle and McKees Rocks, and one northbound lane of Route 28 between Pittsburgh and the 40th Street Bridge.

In Butler County, northbound Interstate 79 traffic is being diverted to share the southbound lanes at the Route 422 interchange near Portersville. Drivers should allow extra time and expect delays, said PennDOT spokeswoman Deborah Casadei.

There will be lane closures and a 12-foot width restriction on Interstate 80 between the Emlenton and Clarion interchanges in Clarion County, and westbound traffic on I-80 is being transferred to the eastbound side, with one lane open in either direction, between the Reynoldsville and Falls Creek exits in Jefferson County.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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