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Time for the holiday road show

More than any other holiday in eight years, Americans are expected to travel by the millions this Fourth of July. That means traffic jams and long delays for motorists.

More people are expected to hit the road because they have extra cash and the opportunity to stretch the the holiday into a four-day vacation, said AAA Auto Club South spokeswoman Cindy Sharpe.

"People are very confident right now in the economy," Sharpe said, citing AAA research. "They have a little more spending money, so they're using it for travel this summer."

The weather is not likely to keep residents home, at least in west Florida. Forecasters are calling for partly cloudy skies with highs near 90. Showers and thunderstorms are possible.

This holiday weekend, law enforcement officials will have an increased presence.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers will patrol in aircraft, unmarked cars and motorcycles, and local police agencies are targeting drunken drivers during what is known as one of the most dangerous times to travel.

AAA expects 36.5-million Americans will travel 100 miles or more from this home this holiday. And despite high gasoline prices, the projections are the heaviest since the 1987 Independence Day.

One big change for Florida motorists will take place this holiday weekend.

Beginning today, armed guards no longer will protect travelers around-the-clock at the state's 70 interstate rest areas and eight service plazas on the Florida Turnpike. The guards, who were assigned to the rest stops after the 1993 slaying of a British tourist at a rest area in North Florida, will now patrol the areas only from dusk to dawn.

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