Traffic on Route 1 in Brunswick on Saturday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Mainers and tourists alike are hitting the road for the unofficial start of summer, with more than 1 million vehicles expected on the Maine Turnpike over Memorial Day weekend.

This year, the volume of car traffic may break a record, Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills said.

About 941,000 vehicles traveled the turnpike over last year’s holiday, 7% fewer than in 2019, a record-setting year with more than 1 million toll transactions.

Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the third-busiest for New England travel since 2000, according to AAA.

About 1.9 million New Englanders will travel 50 miles or more away from home, AAA of Northern New England projects. That would be a 6.3% increase from 2022. Most of them – about 1.79 million – will travel by motor vehicle.

With lower fuel prices and more travelers on the road, drivers can expect delays this weekend, said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights.


“Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid driving during peak hours,” Pishue said in a news release.

On Monday, the heaviest traffic leaving Maine southbound is expected to be between noon and 7 p.m.

Lighter traffic was forecast for Saturday and Sunday.

The turnpike authority said peak northbound traffic took place Friday between 2 to 7 p.m., in line with expectations.

Saturday’s traffic, both northbound and southbound, was at its busiest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Mills said cars have made up most of the weekend traffic, with truck deliveries down.


Truck traffic has not recovered since the pandemic, but car traffic made a resurgence in 2021.

“(Car traffic) came back really strong in 2022, and in 2023, we’ll likely beat out the highest numbers,” Mills said.

The pleasant weather is encouraging more people to hit the road, he added.

“And boy, the national news is that everybody is projecting more people on the road,” Mills said. “I think that’s a fair assumption.”

Nationally, 42.3 million Americans were expected to travel 50 miles more from home over the holiday weekend – a 7% increase over last year, according to AAA. The heavier traffic volume is a sign of what will continue in the summer months ahead.

Air travel is expected to increase 8.9% this year in New England, and travel by trains, buses, and cruise ships will increase by 11.3%, AAA projects.



At the Hertz car rental service’s Portland jetport location, business was booming for Memorial Day, as it was last year, manager Chase Hartley said.

Hartley started working at Hertz in 2019, and he says the volume of rentals increased as the pandemic receded.

“Last year, it felt close to normal,” he said. “This year, we’re on par with last year.”

The offseason was also busier this year, Hartley said.

And, now that the jetport has added more flights, “we expect more car rentals, as more flights mean more people,” Hartley said.


Meanwhile, Portland is commanding attention as a top tourism spot.

This Memorial Day weekend, “we are fully booked up,” said Rachel Gallea, who works with Portland Explorer and SeaPortland.

Portland Explorer tours take visitors through the downtown and to three lighthouses in South Portland: the Portland Head Light, Spring Point Ledge, and Bug Light. SeaPortland takes visitors for boat rides and sunset cruises, on tours of lighthouse scenery, and out to the historic Fort Scammel on House Island.

Tourists seem to be delighted with the weekend’s beautiful weather, Gallea said, and the charter tours in Casco Bay “are super booked-up.”

According to AAA, travelers are paying more for Memorial Day trips this year, in large part because of the rising cost of airline tickets. AAA booking data show a 40% increase in airfare to this year’s top destinations, including Orlando, Florida; New York City; Las Vegas; Denver; and Boston.

But higher prices aren’t stopping travel this year. International travel is surging, with bookings a whopping 250% higher this Memorial Day weekend compared with 2022, AAA reports. European cities are the most popular global destinations, led by Rome; Paris; Dublin; London; Barcelona, Spain; and Athens, Greece.

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