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Article updated: 5/24/2013 5:51 AM

Fewer making the great escape this Memorial Day

By Marni Pyke

More Americans will be hanging out around home this Memorial Day weekend.

AAA predicts that 34.8 million people will hit the road, airports, boat docks, train and bus stations this holiday -- a dip from 35.1 million in 2012.

"Economic improvements from last year are not strong enough to spur an increase in travelers," AAA Regional President Brad Roeber said, adding that government cutbacks are partly to blame.

"Economic growth in the first quarter was strong but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt, which has reduced economic growth expectations," Roeber said in a statement.

About 1.8 million Illinoisans will go on a trip between Thursday and Monday, AAA forecasts. That is a 1 percent drop from last year. Of those 1.8 million, 1.6 million will be driving. Gas prices were $4.22 for a gallon of regular in the Chicago region compared to the national average of $3.66 Thursday.

O'Hare and Midway International Airports will be at capacity over the long weekend with 1.8 million travelers anticipated.

In contrast to AAA's expected overall decline in Memorial Day travel, traffic at O'Hare should jump by 2 percent, the Chicago Department of Aviation estimated.

About 1.5 million passengers will travel through O'Hare over the holiday, an increase of 2 percent from 2012. At Midway, more than 360,000 fliers are projected, 3 percent more than last year.

Today is expected to be the busiest day at both airports. For travel tips to ease airport security checkpoints, go to the Transportation Security Administration at blog.tsa.gov.

Meanwhile, local and state police are teaming up to conduct special patrols to check for seat belt infractions, speeding and drunk drivers.

The Itasca-based National Safety Council warned travelers to buckle up and pick a designated driver, given that more than 400 traffic deaths could occur over the holiday, based on historic norms.

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