Memorial Day travel could be busiest 'in almost 20 years,' AAA says

Cars drive on I-15 in Salt Lake City on Nov. 27, 2023. Almost 44 million Americans are expected to travel this weekend, which could cause some travel delays, including in Utah.

Cars drive on I-15 in Salt Lake City on Nov. 27, 2023. Almost 44 million Americans are expected to travel this weekend, which could cause some travel delays, including in Utah. (Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 44 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this Memorial Day weekend, which may make it the busiest in about two decades, according to AAA.

The automotive organization also believes it's a sign that this summer may draw in a lot of traveling.

"We're expecting Memorial Day weekend numbers like we haven't seen in almost 20 years. It's not just a return to pre-pandemic levels but also foreshadows the robust summer travel season ahead," said Brian Ng, senior vice president of membership and travel marketing for AAA Utah, in a statement last week.

Most people are expected to drive, as is the case every year. AAA estimates that about 38.4 million Americans will hit the roads over the long weekend, a projected increase of 4% from last year and a 1.9% from before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.

That could cause some travel delays, including in Utah.

Utah Department of Transportation traffic engineers said Wednesday that drivers should prepare for "heavier than usual traffic" throughout the weekend. This could result in some big delays on major roadways:

  • Delays of up to 25 minutes are possible on southbound I-15 in Salt Lake County Friday afternoon.
  • Delays of up to 10 minutes are also possible Friday afternoon on I-15 in Davis and Weber counties, as well as eastbound U.S. 6.
  • Delays of up to 20 minutes are possible on westbound U.S. 6 on Monday.
  • Delays of up to 10 minutes are possible on northbound I-15 near Nephi on Monday.

UDOT will suspend construction projects and open up as many lanes are possible, as the agency typically does for holiday weekends. But officials warn drivers that there could be some additional delays in areas where construction is happening.

  • I-15 will remain down to three lanes near 5600 South and Riverdale Road in Weber County, where crews have been reconstructing the freeway interchange and widening 5600 South.
  • "Short detours" are in place on state Route 12 near Henrieville, Garfield County, because of a bridge replacement happening in the area.
  • Alternating one-way traffic signals remain in place on state Route 132 by Nephi.

Those planning on taking an even longer weekend may run into some construction in southeast Utah. The agency adds that construction will begin on state Route 24 between I-70 and Hanksville beginning on Tuesday. Drivers going to or coming from Lake Powell could experience delays of up to 15 minutes.

Utah gas price index

Gas prices are generally about the same as last year nationally; however, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Utah is about 44 cents cheaper than it was last Memorial Day weekend.

Utah's average has fallen to $3.66 per gallon, about a nickel above the national average. It's also down from about 26 cents from a month ago.

Those driving to northwest Utah may come across the lowest prices this weekend compared to other parts of the state. As of Wednesday, the five lowest prices are in that region:

  • Tooele: $3.53
  • Box Elder: $3.54
  • Millard: $3.58
  • Cache: $3.59
  • Weber: $3.59

The Wasatch Front, as well as parts of eastern and southwest Utah, also have some of the lowest gas prices in the state right now. Prices are generally the highest in parts of northeast and southern Utah:

  • Wayne: $4.15
  • Piute: $4.10
  • Kane: $3.98
  • Beaver: $3.97
  • Grand: $3.95

Salt Lake airport's busy weekend

Meanwhile, Salt Lake City International Airport is anticipating about 30,000 passengers going through its doors both on Thursday and Friday, according to Salt Lake City police.

"Allow yourself plenty of time to park, check in and go through the screening process," police posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

AAA estimates that a little more than 3.5 million Americans will hit the skies this weekend, a 4.8% increase from 2022 and 9.3% jump from 2019.

"Airports are bracing for a spike in travelers," the organization wrote, calling it the potentially the busiest Memorial Day weekend for airports in 19 years.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for


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