Local agencies are planning ahead for this week’s influx of travelers and Fourth of July revelers, readying runways for packed flights and employing extra law enforcement officers.
The Santa Barbara Airport anticipates a busier-than-usual travel period during what has historically been the most hectic holiday of the summer travel season.
More than 5,200 fliers are expected in and out of the small airport over the long weekend, with most flights at capacity, according to Hazel Johns, assistant airport director.
“Because July Fourth falls on Thursday, and you’ve got a four-day weekend, there will be more travelers taking advantage of that opportunity,” Johns said, urging fliers to arrive at least 90 minutes before their scheduled take-off. “It’s always good to come early, make sure that you get parking taken care of.”
Holiday air travel is expected to see a slight increase nationwide at more than 3.07 million fliers, compared with 3.06 million in 2012, according to the 2013 AAA Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast.
AAA Travel projects that 40.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday.
Overall holiday travel — defined as Wednesday through Sunday — is expected to decline slightly (0.8 percent) because July 4 fell on a Wednesday last year and elongated the weekend.
Visitors to the South Coast will find hotels fully booked or near capacity for the weekend.
Local law enforcement officials intend to be vigilant throughout the long weekend, since 84 percent of travelers nationwide — equaling 34.4 million — are expected to travel by automobile.
The freeways have been cleared of roadwork and lane closures in anticipation of the flood of vehicles, beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday and lasting through 10 p.m. Sunday, according to Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.
All Santa Barbara County law enforcement agencies are planning heavy staffing levels for Independence Day festivities Thursday, said Sgt. Kevin Huddle of the Sheriff’s Department.
Beginning Wednesday through Sunday, the cities of Goleta, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria will have extra police officers working DUI saturation patrols as part of “AVOID the 12” — the name for the 12 law enforcement agencies of the county that work together to combat impaired driving.
California State Parks and the UC Santa Barbara Police Department will also deploy saturation patrols within their jurisdictions, and CHP will have all available officers on the region’s freeways and unincorporated roads beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday through midnight Sunday.