Shore lovers apparently shrugged off $4-a-gallon sticker shock and hit the road Memorial Day weekend in higher-than-expected numbers, even though overall gas consumption has been declining.
About 25 percent more vehicles used the Atlantic City Expressway compared with last Memorial Day, a sign that fabulous weather persuaded commuters to splurge despite the squeeze at the pump.
"Atlantic City and the Shore region is a destination that is fairly close . . . a shorter drive than most folks plan on taking," said Sharon Gordon, spokeswoman for the South Jersey Transportation Authority. A trip from Philadelphia to Ocean City, for example, is about 60 miles one way - requiring nowhere near a full tank of gas for most cars.
The total of 871,117 cars on the expressway during the holiday weekend was well above the 698,000 last Memorial Day, when it rained for part of the weekend, Gordon said.
There were signs, however, that commuters continued to pull back on gas-guzzling jaunts.
Traffic was down 5.6 percent on the Delaware Memorial Bridge compared with last year, with about 26,000 fewer vehicles using the bridge Friday to Monday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
The number of vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge on Maryland's Eastern Shore dropped 3 percent from last year, AAA spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said.
Drivers are definitely making fewer trips to the pump this year.
Pennsylvania drivers bought 12.6 million gallons of gasoline in March - 147,000 fewer than during the year-ago month, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In March 2006, Pennsylvanians bought 14.1 million gallons of gasoline.
- Maria Panaritis