Fourth of July Traffic 

The Maine Turnpike Authority is gearing up for a busy holiday weekend, but gas prices, recent weather trends and that fact that July 4th falls on a different day each year make it difficult for officials to predict traffic volumes with confidence.“Maine’s peak tourism season doesn’t really begin until the July 4th weekend,” said Turnpike Authority spokesman, Dan Paradee. “Until we get this long weekend under our belt, it’s impossible to know what impact gas prices and other factors will have on summer traffic. The weekend weather forecast is good, so we’re preparing for a big weekend,” he said.Paradee said that the Turnpike Authority was suspending all construction activity on the highway from noon on Thursday through Sunday night to accommodate the expected traffic. He said the Turnpike Authority is encouraging all travelers heading south from Augusta to Portland and beyond to use the Turnpike as an alternative route to I-295, which is closed along that stretch. The Turnpike will be the safest and quickest option, especially on busy weekends, he said. The last time July 4th fell on a Friday was in 2003. Based on the experience of that year, Turnpike officials expect the Thursday before the Fourth to be the busiest day with more than 225,000 vehicles on the Turnpike and more than 48,000 vehicles heading northbound through the York Toll Plaza. The heaviest volumes on Thursday will occur between 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Sunday will be the second busiest day of the weekend with more than 175,000 expected to travel the highway and more than 50,000 expected to head south through the York Toll Plaza. Traffic will begin building southbound on Sunday shortly before noon and heavy volumes will last until 6:00 p.m. The Turnpike Authority is expecting a total of more than 700,000 to travel the Turnpike, Thursday through Monday, with more than 270,000 passing through the York Toll Plaza.Gas prices and poor weather have dampened traffic numbers during the month of June. Overall Turnpike traffic volumes were down 4% for the month. Traffic at York Toll Plaza was down by 10%. Overall traffic on the Turnpike since January is down about 1.5%.“There’s no question that gas prices, rainy weather and a sluggish economy has had an impact on traffic, but the story of Maine’s tourism season really begins this weekend,” said Paradee. “There are simply too many variables at play to make a confident prediction,” he said. Expected Peak Traffic HoursThursday, July 3 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.Friday, July 4 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.Saturday, July 5 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.Sunday July 6 12 noon to 6:00 p.m.*The above information is from “Turnpike News” courtesy the Maine Turnpike Authority