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Turnpike Traffic Forecast Predicts Fewer Holiday Travelers

Maine Turnpike: Thinking Ahead FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2011
Erin Courtney
CONTACT: Dan Morin (MTA)

Turnpike Traffic Forecast Predicts Fewer Holiday Travelers

USM Researchers Cite Highest Memorial Day Gas Prices in a Decade as Cause

High gas prices are expected to reduce driving nationwide this Memorial Day weekend, as will be the case on the Maine Turnpike. The Maine Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine projects that overall traffic at the York Toll plaza will total 292,000 vehicles from Friday, May 27 through Monday, May 30, which is down about 6% from 2010 levels.

According to the Center’s researchers, northbound traffic on Friday and Saturday will fall by 5.7% compared with 2010, and southbound traffic on Sunday and Monday will drop by nearly 7%. The Maine Turnpike has witnessed similar year-over-year declines during the past several weeks as the cost of regular gas hovered around $4.00 per gallon.

Average prices for regular gas in New England are more than 12 cents per gallon higher than the 2008 Memorial Day weekend, the last time that gas prices approached this level, said the USM Center’s Dr. Charles Colgan. The result is the highest gas prices for Memorial Day in the past decade.

On a positive note, gas prices have dropped by more than 10 cents a gallon in the last week alone and are expected to continue to fall through the next several weeks. That means Maine tourism overall this summer may not be as severely affected as during this Memorial Day weekend, said Turnpike spokesman Scott Tompkins. It’s an encouraging trend, particularly as travel begins to shift from weekend overnight stays to longer vacation trips.

Despite the anticipated decline in volume, traffic at the Turnpike’s southern end will still be heavy at times, particularly between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Friday (northbound) and from noon to 7:00 p.m. Monday (southbound). For traffic alerts, traffic cams or to sign up for e-mail alerts, visit MaineTurnpike.com.