Moran: Does Labor Day travel report prove Great Recession is over?

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27:  Traffic backs up on the Kennedy Expressway as commuters and holiday travelers try to get an early start on their Thanksgiving travel on November 27, 2013 in Chicago. | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27: Traffic backs up on the Kennedy Expressway as commuters and holiday travelers try to get an early start on their Thanksgiving travel on November 27, 2013 in Chicago. | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

If you’ve been waiting to boldly declare that the Great Recession is over, now’s your chance: The AAA Motor Club has announced that Labor Day Weekend 2014 will feature the most end-of-summer travel since 2008.

“Nearly 35 Million Traveling for Labor Day Says AAA, Highest Since Recession Driven Decline.” So says the headline at www.aaachicago.com, and who are you to argue? Fire up the engine.

If you’re wondering how the folks at AAA arrive at these holiday-weekend travel forecasts, they reveal a few factors. For one thing, we’re told, “historically, when Labor Day weekend begins in August, Americans have shown a higher tendency to travel.”

That is the case this year, with Labor Day arriving on the first day of September and everything else about the weekend falling in August, just to mess up the rhythm of life.

Also, we’re informed that “consumer spending has surpassed income growth, indicating that Americans are willing to take on debt to finance a vacation.” Let’s just ignore the whole argument that overwhelming debt can fuel a new recession.

However the math is put together, we’re informed that 34.7 million Americans will drive 50 or more miles from home this weekend, which is not only the highest figure since 2008 but is up 1.3 percent over last year.

In Illinois, the estimate is 1.85 million travelers, up nearly 1 percent from last Labor Day, and AAA reports that the average gasoline price across the state — $3.56 — is down seven cents from last year at this time. In Lake County this week, you could find gas in the $3.45 range, which no doubt will kick all these estimates up a notch.

There is perhaps one other factor at play when it comes to this recession-busting weekend of travel: Delany Road, one of the region’s critical escape routes to and from Wisconsin, is now a four-to-five-lane superhighway north of Sunset Avenue.

Perhaps I overstate the case here, but also perhaps not. Traveling on Delany last week for one of the few times since the News-Sun sold its office there, I was amazed to find that the old two-lane choke point north of Sunset suddenly looks like the Autobahn.

There are other possible explanations for why we’ll allegedly be traveling more for Labor Day — the Fairfield Road/Route 176 Junction Improvement being “95 percent complete,” for example — but Delany Road is your gateway to the world. Don’t be surprised when 34.7 million Americans use it this weekend.

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