This chart depicts the percentage drop in daily traffic in 2020 compared to the same day a year ago on the Maine Turnpike. The higher the number, the bigger the drop for that day. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

Highway traffic data indicates that Maine isn’t yet seeing any surge in visits from out-of-staters.

Since traffic volumes plummeted in mid-March, there has been only a little creep back toward the normal flow of cars and trucks.

Weekends, which traditionally see more out-of-state visitors, have been especially slow, according to the daily data collected by the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Traffic is down on the Maine Turnpike, as evidenced Tuesday afternoon just south of the Auburn interchange. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Peter Mills, the authority’s director, said traffic from out of state “still seems depressed,” which is good news for public health experts who aren’t too keen on tourists pouring into the Pine Tree State while it tries to keep the new coronavirus from spreading.

Maine has a mandatory 14-day quarantine in place for anyone entering the state, a move that officials readily admit puts a heavy burden on the tourism industry, much of which is shut down as part of a larger push for social distancing and keeping people home to the degree possible.

Mills said one change since the first weeks of the pandemic is the roads near Portland are seeing more traffic “to a point where it matches or exceeds traffic at York and West Gardiner,” where people enter and exit the highway.


“The opposite was true earlier,” he said.

By comparing daily traffic totals to ones from the same day last year, it is possible to see that almost every day since the state began shutting down nonessential businesses there has been about half as much volume on the turnpike as usual.

A greater percentage of what remains consists of trucking, the records show, while the number of cars has slipped even further than traffic as a whole.

Weekends have seen the sharpest drops. A graph depicting how far off the norm each day has been clearly shows spikes every weekend when the volumes plummet.

The slowest single day was Sunday, April 12, when traffic was off 72.1% from a year ago. The day with the least drop in volume was Monday, May 4.

“Mondays and Tuesdays remain the busiest,” Mills said, “perhaps from delivery trucks.”

The turnpike anticipates a growing number of cars and trucks in the months ahead.

It’s estimated the turnpike may wind up with a 30% decrease in May since last year and expects by July that traffic may only be down 10% from 2019 totals.

In general, the turnpike has seen traffic volumes increase from year to year. This is the sharpest prolonged decline in its history.

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