Traffic volume on the Maine Turnpike is on track to exceed its pre-recession peak for the first time, indicating that the upcoming tourism season could be a strong one.

Turnpike traffic, which has been increasing slowly since bottoming out in 2009 during the Great Recession, is poised this year to surpass the record set in 2007, according to officials at the Maine Turnpike Authority. That milestone is significant because turnpike traffic is an indicator of the health of the state’s economy and particularly the tourism sector, which is heavily dependent on visitors driving to Maine.

From Jan. 1 through May 31 this year, nearly 28.3 million vehicles traveled on the toll road. The increase over the same period in 2007 was relatively tiny – about 57,000 vehicles, or 0.2 percent – but it comes despite the turnpike’s lackluster performance in January and February when a series of heavy snowstorms kept motorists off the state’s highways.

Compared with the same period last year, passenger vehicle traffic was up 4.5 percent. The strongest month was May, when passenger vehicle traffic increased nearly 8 percent.

Among the New England states that operate toll roads, only Maine and New Hampshire are seeing increased traffic volume this year, said Doug Davidson, the authority’s chief financial officer, who attended a regional meeting of turnpike operators Monday.

The Maine Turnpike Authority took in $45.4 million in tolls from Jan. 1 to June 7, up 2.25 percent over the same period last year. The increase is the result of record toll revenues in March, April and May. The agency lost nearly $300,000 in toll revenue during the bad weather in January and February.

The turnpike data is a critical indicator of the state’s tourism industry because so many tourists drive to Maine from other states in the Northeast, said Connie Russell, general manager of the Samoset Resort, a hotel in Rockport owned by Ocean Properties.

Low gasoline prices also play a big role in people’s decisions to drive to Maine, he said. The current average price for unleaded gas is about 90 cents a gallon less than a year ago, according to the website.

Based on advance bookings, the Samoset Resort and the other seven Ocean Properties hotels in Maine will have record business this year, Russell said.

For his business, the most important factor is the weather, Barber said.

“As long as the sun is out, we will do well,” he said.

Carolann Ouellette, director of Maine’s Office of Tourism, said in a statement that turnpike traffic volume is a good indicator of visitation, but there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation.

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