HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) – There wasn’t even anyone there to wave goodbye.

After a sunny weekend in Northern New England, tens of thousands of tourists headed back to the work week and their homes to the south on Sunday night, passing swiftly and freely through unmanned tollbooths on Interstate 95.

Normally southbound vehicles back up for miles on New Hampshire’s 19-mile section of Interstate 95, the only direct conduit between heavily populated states to the south and the woods, lakes and coastline of New Hampshire and Maine.

But in a six-week experiment to try to reduce at least half of the weekend snarl, officials doubled the normal $1 toll for northbound passenger cars and eliminated the southbound toll.

It apparently worked, although transportation officials were reviewing traffic counts from nearby secondary roads to see how many northbound drivers might have avoided the increased toll.

On Sunday afternoon, as it has since the change was made Friday morning, southbound traffic flowed smoothly through four open lanes at the toll plaza.

State troopers kept a close watch to see that drivers stayed in their lanes before the plaza and obeyed the 35 mph speed limit in the plaza area.

The booths at the four lanes were left unmanned so that drivers wouldn’t hesitate, Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton said.

Boynton said a few truckers have complained that the experiment is a raw deal for them. These truckers drive routes that pass through the northbound toll but not the southbound. For example, a route from Massachusetts to Portsmouth, then cutting over to Concord or Manchester and returning via Interstate 93 might be in that situation, Boynton said.

The experiment was pushed by Gov. Craig Benson, who was caught in a hour-long traffic jam at the tollbooths recently.

The state’s Executive Council approved the experiment Thursday and it began less than 24 hours later.

The Hampton toll plaza took in $23.4 million for the state last year.

AP-ES-08-24-03 1859EDT



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