More San Diegans hit the roads as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted

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SAN DIEGO – If it feels like more cars are hitting the roads in San Diego County, it’s for good reason.

“People are coming back,” said Cynthia Burke, director of the Criminal Justice Research Division with SANDAG. “We saw some big drops in freeway traffic in April and we wanted to see what it looks like now that the economy is starting to open back up.”

From mid-April to mid-May, vehicles traveled nearly 460 million miles on the eight local highways during weekdays, a new SANDAG report found. Although that’s well under the 770 million miles recorded during the same period from 2019, the figure spiked from the previous month, a trend that is likely to continue as local business and recreational activities begin to reopen.

Burke said the lowest freeway traffic came during the second week of April, with 50% fewer traffic on the road than normal due, in large part, to state and local stay-at-home orders. By mid-May, that number was recorded at 31% less traffic.

In other words, people are returning to the roads, Burke said.

“It’s something we are going to keep looking at,” she said. “We want to take into account how our long range transportation plans (are) going to have to look, are employers going to still offer telecommunicating to employees? Are there going to be more flexibility in hours, reduced or changed schedules?”

The reduction in traffic also has led to an increase in travel speeds along local highways, the report shows. Traffic during the month-long period beginning in mid-April was moving 29 mph faster on average compared to a year ago.

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