A strong economy, affordable gas and a decent weather forecast has experts predicting record-breaking travel in New England over the Thanksgiving holiday.

More than 2.2 million New Englanders will journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving weekend, a 3.5 percent increase over last year, which would be the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005, according to AAA. The Maine Turnpike Authority is predicting traffic volume will top last year’s record-breaking 1 million transactions by about 2 percent, or an extra 20,000 tolls paid.

“The economy remains solid, gas prices remain relatively affordable (although up from last year) and the weather along the Turnpike corridor looks good for traveling,” MTA spokeswoman Erin T. Courtney said. “More importantly, people just love to come to Maine. Whether they are returning home, visiting family and friends, or want to enjoy the outdoors or shop, Maine is just an awesome place to be.”

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving traditionally has the highest traffic volume of the weekend. Last year, the MTA reported 257,000 tolls paid, which was 4 percent higher than 2015. Even so, it’s not the busiest weekend of the year for the Turnpike, Courtney said. The system reports high volume on Labor Day, Columbus Day, and throughout all of August, she said.

More Mainers are hitting the road even though gas prices are higher than last year at this time. The average price for a gallon of gas in Maine last Thanksgiving was $2.23, or about the same as it was in 2015, according to the price-tracking website gasbuddy.com. This year, the average price is $2.55 a gallon, ranging from $2.39 at one cash-only station in Pittsfield to $2.76 a gallon in Madawaska. The national average is $2.53 per gallon, according to gasbuddy.com.

Rising incomes and higher consumer confidence will likely fuel “a strong year for the travel industry,” said Pat Moody of AAA Northern New England. The increase in drivers in New England for the weekend is forecasted to slightly surpass the national average, with a 3.3 percent increase from 1.89 million to 1.96 million in New England as compared to a 3.2 percent national increase. Regional holiday air travel is likely to grow by 5.4 percent, to about 249,000 leisure travelers.

Nationally, AAA is projecting that 50.9 million Americans will travel during the five-day Thanksgiving period from Wednesday through Sunday. About 89 percent of holiday travelers, or 45.5 million, will be hitting the road. The cheapest airfares in four years is fueling a 5 percent bump in air travel. And travel by other means, such as trains, buses and cruises, will increase 1.1 percent to 1.5 million Thanksgiving travelers.

Holiday travel times in the most congested cities could be as much as three times longer than usual. In Boston, which AAA ranks as the eighth most congested city in the country, the worst wait will likely occur at the intersection of Interstates 90 and 84 from 5:15-7:15 p.m. Tuesday. Logan Airport is projecting higher than usual holiday volume and is advising travelers to show up early for their flights, according to a Massport advisory.

The Portland International Jetport is projecting volume will be about the same as last year, with about 36,000 people flying in and out of the facility over the holiday week, assistant airport director Zachary Sundquist said. Flights will be full, but fewer flights will be offered than in July and August – the airport’s busiest travel times. Sundquist advises passengers to arrive at least 75 minutes before their scheduled departure.

Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Downeaster, is projecting near-capacity travel on all trains over the holiday week, Executive Director Patricia Quinn said. The service runs five daily round-trips between Brunswick and Boston during the week, but will cut back to its three-round-trip service on Thursday. Quinn is expecting heavy traffic throughout the five-day holiday.

“We advise people to book ahead so they don’t get there and find they can’t buy a ticket,” Quinn said. “We are expecting that many of our trains will be sold out.”

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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