Boston

When to Drive and Where to Eat Over Fourth of July Weekend

This holiday weekend, traffic levels are expected to reach pre-pandemic proportions and some businesses will be closed due to a labor shortage

NBC Universal, Inc.

Traveling for the Fourth of July? Making dinner plans? Here are some important tips to know before you hit the road.

Traffic levels are expected to reach pre-pandemic proportions. 

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According to an AAA report, Boston will see the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record, trailing only 2019. Drivers in the Boston area are expected to experience nearly three times the delays when compared with typical drive times.

The report projected that 47.7 million Americans will hit the road for Independence Day this year, despite gas prices hovering above $3 per gallon.

And on top of that, the labor shortage is taking a toll on Fourth of July dinner plans. Some Massachusetts businesses, like Lindsey's family restaurant in East Wareham, have chosen to close for the holiday due to a lack of staff.

Owner of Lindsey's, Cheri Lindsey, said she was forced to close on Independence Day for the first time in more than 70 years because she's operating with roughly half the staff they usually have for the busy season.

"I've been through so much in 40 years with this restaurant, so many things that I thought brought me to my knees, but this is the worst," Lindsey said.

The shortage is impacting the entire supply chain. The restaurant's chef said he is waiting days for deliveries from distributors due to the lack of drivers. As a result, he has had to temporarily take items off the menu.

A lot of Mass. restaurants are struggling to bring on enough staff to work July 4 weekend, and some are even choosing to close.

"It's like walking across a floor of cardboard wondering, is today going to be the day I fall through?" executive chef David Veronneau said.

The restaurant is one of many businesses struggling to get through the holiday weekend, which is historically one of the most profitable days of the year. The Gateway Tavern is closing for a week starting July 4. Reached by phone, an employee said it is partly to give their workers a break during the labor shortage.

The Massachusetts Food Association, which represents the grocery industry, is also seeing the negative impacts of the shortage. They recently wrote a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging him to consider paying people to go back to work, which New Hampshire is already doing.

Overall, just 2.5% fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to Independence Day in 2019. This represents an increase of nearly 40% compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million.

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trip on Monday mid-day.

Boston traffic is estimated to reach peak congestion, about 330% above average, on Monday, July 5, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., according to the report. This is the second-highest projected spike in traffic among metro areas in the country during the holiday period, following the San Francisco area.

The report added that the Boston area is expected to be the ninth-most-popular destination for the holiday. The top five projected destinations are Orlando, Anaheim, Denver, Las Vegas and Seattle.  

The worst times to drive nationwide include Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The best times to drive are after 7 p.m. Thursday, before noon Friday, after 2 p.m. Saturday and before 1 p.m. Monday.

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