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Maine Turnpike Traffic Expected To Near Pre-Pandemic Levels On Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Traffic Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
A motorist from Massachusetts flies an American flag ahead of the Memorial Day holiday while traveling on the Maine Turnpike, Friday, May 28, 2021, in Kennebunk, Maine. The state expects a large increase in the number of out-of-state visitors over last year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of businesses to close.

Gas prices have been way up in Maine recently as a crush of travelers comes to the state over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Last week, gas prices exceeded the $3.00 per gallon mark at several Maine pumps for the first time in almost seven years, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at the fuel tracking group Gas Buddy.

De Haan says, while several factors influence gas prices, this price spike might last longer as people start to feel more bullish post-pandemic.

"Whereas a typical year may see prices peak just ahead of the summer driving season, this year we may see prices go deep into summer; that is, they may not peak until midsummer," he says.

That's as more than 37 million people in the U.S. are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home over the long Memorial Day weekend, which is significant boost over 2020 travel, but still not quite up to levels seen before COVID-19, according to AAA Northern New England.

In New England, 1.7 million people are expected to travel, with the vast majority getting behind the wheel.

And the Maine Turnpike thinks traffic will be near pre-pandemic levels this weekend.

Turnpike spokeswoman Erin Courtney says projections are traffic will be down just 3 percent from Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

Northbound turnpike traffic was expected to peak late Friday afternoon, between 4 and 8 p.m. On Monday, southbound traffic could begin to build as early as 11 a.m. and last through much of the afternoon.

Drivers along the Maine Turnpike will also encounter several construction areas. No work will be done over the weekend, but drivers will still need to pass by the sites cautiously, according to Courtney.

"People can expect through the Portland area, where we're doing a widening project and revamping Exit 45, that they'll need to slow down. The speed limit through there is 50. Also, down at York, we have the York toll project going on. That will be wrapping up this fall," she says.

At Gas Buddy, De Haan predicts average prices to hover between 2.75 and 3.25 per gallon in Maine.

Currently, average gas prices in the state are running more than a dollar above prices this time last year.