WASHINGTON—The Outer Banks. Myrtle Beach. The Hamptons.
These summer tourist hot spots promise fun, relaxation and something much less appealing: a lot of traffic congestion getting there.
They're three of 25 scenic travel destinations with the worst summer traffic tie-ups, according to a report released Thursday by three vehicular-transportation advocacy groups.
"Many of us will spend the beginning and end of our trips in traffic comparable to or heavier than our everyday commutes," Greg Cohen, president and chief executive officer of the American Highway Users Alliance, said at a news conference Thursday. He was joined by representatives of the automobile club AAA and TRIP, a nonprofit transportation organization. The groups are using the report to urge Congress to pass a long-overdue transportation bill.
The Oregon Coast near the Willamette Valley; Virginia's Tidewater region; the Maryland/Delaware shore; the lakes and camping sites near Branson, Mo.; and North Carolina's Outer Banks are the five destinations with the worst traffic bottlenecks, according to the report.
Sixteen of the 25 places are in East Coast states. The roads leading to California's Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border also made the list.
Cambridge Systematics, the Massachusetts transportation-research firm that conducted the study, asked states' transportation departments to identify traffic bottlenecks near popular scenic tourist destinations. It ranked the sites based on their number of traffic delays, the total number of summer trips and the estimated delay per trip. More urban tourist attractions, such as Disney World in Orlando, Fla., weren't included because statistics for those places don't distinguish between local and tourist traffic.
The report was an effort to draw attention to the stagnating transportation bill, which provides billions of dollars in highway money to states that could be used for congestion-reduction projects. On Thursday, lawmakers announced they needed more time to pass the bill and expected to extend its deadline to ensure that federal and state agencies continue to receive transportation money. The deadline has been extended seven times since the last bill expired in September 2003.
"This weekend, when vacationers are stuck in July 4th traffic, the solutions to their woes are stuck in Congress," Cohen said.
This summer is projected to be the busiest ever on the roads, with 328 million recreation trips of more than 50 miles each expected, according to the study, an increase of 2.3 percent from last summer.
For motorists planning to visit those congested areas, the report suggests avoiding peak travel times, such as Friday and Sunday afternoons, finding alternatives to driving and allocating ample time for trips.
Summer travelers to the Outer Banks, a chain of islands on North Carolina's coast, may need a few additional hours to reach the popular spot. Kevin Schwartz, co-vice chair of the Outer Banks Transportation Taskforce, said it could take up to three hours to make the 60-mile trip from the Virginia border to the islands on Saturdays, by far the most popular day to travel.
"Getting here on a Saturday is no fun," said Schwartz, whose group is working on a plan to get visitors to come to the Outer Banks on other days. It also encourages families to take as few cars as possible when traveling to the Outer Banks on rural four- and two-lane roads.
Rural tourist spots such as the Outer Banks have few, if any, major roads nearby, Schwartz noted, leading to congestion and driver headaches.
"The more remote places that attract people are harder to get to," he said.
Below, in descending order, are the 25 summer tourist destinations with the worst traffic bottlenecks, according to a report by AAA, TRIP and the American Highway Users Alliance.
Tidewater region, Virginia
Lakes and campsites near Branson, Mo.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
New Jersey shore
Napa Valley, California
Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish country
Catskill Mountains, New York
Pocono Mountains/Lake Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania
Provo Canyon, Utah
Yosemite National Park, California
Sun Valley, Idaho
Lake Tahoe area, Nevada
Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana
Presque Isle State Park, Pennsylvania
Acadia National Park, Maine
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Lake George, New York
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Whitewater region, Idaho
The Hamptons, New York
View the full report on the Web at www.highways.org.
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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