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More than 400k Philly-area residents to travel for Memorial Day

Sandy-damaged Shore roads ready for travelers

More than 400,000 Philadelphia-area residents are expected to travel this weekend, and even those headed to the Jersey Shore should encounter roads that are ready for them.

AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates that 404,000 people in the Philadelphia region will travel for Memorial Day weekend, a decrease of just less than 1 percent from last year. About 22 percent of those travelers will head to the Jersey Shore, AAA says.

"Clearly, there is a great sense of pride and concern and support for the Shore," AAA spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said.

Despite the destruction from Superstorm Sandy, 79 percent of Philadelphia-area and New Jersey residents surveyed by AAA said the storm didn't change their summer travel plans.

The wreckage from Sandy had the potential to make travel difficult: New Jersey has removed more than 8 million cubic yards of debris and sand from the streets, according to a Sandy progress report issued last month by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. Between Sea Bright and Seaside Heights, the state Department of Transportation got rid of more than 4,400 truckloads of debris from roadways, and the state has replaced 1,100 traffic signs, the report says.

Even in areas hit hard by Sandy, officials say the roads are ready for summer travelers. This weekend, 90 percent of those traveling say they will drive to their destination, according to AAA.

"We're in good shape," said Tom Curcio, head of the roads department in Ocean County. "We managed to get all of the roads rebuilt and paved before Memorial Day."

Ed Conover, deputy emergency management coordinator in Atlantic County, says all of the Sandy-damaged roads there have been reopened, though travelers can still expect occasional construction and road work throughout the summer.

Some roads needed more extensive repairs than others.

Route 35, the main street in Mantoloking and the second-busiest highway in the Shore area, didn't reopen until February. More work will be done to rebuild a 12.5-mile stretch of the road, but repaving won't start until September, in order to prevent lane closures during the tourist season.

"It won't impact the summer season at all," said Steve Schapiro of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Though the Sandy-damaged roads have been restored, one Atlantic County closure from damage sustained during Hurricane Irene -- which hit in August 2011 -- will be in place for another summer. A section of Somers Point-Mays Landing Road, also known as County Route 559, has been shut down since that storm and is still being repaired.

"The detours have been in place for quite a while," Conover said.

Nationwide, 34.8 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles over the Memorial Day holiday this year, a 0.9-percent decrease from 2012, according to AAA.

Robinson said she wasn't surprised Memorial Day travel is flat compared with last year.

Gas prices are about 25 cents per gallon lower than a year ago. But recent weak economic indicators, and the sequester, may lead to fewer travelers.

"There are different factors working to balance each other out," she said.