DOT expects heavy traffic this Labor Day weekend

Posted Sept. 03, 2009, at 8:39 p.m.

YORK — Plenty of traffic is expected on the Maine Turnpike over Labor Day weekend, according to the Maine Department of Transportation, but the fact that the Monday holiday will occur a full seven days into September may ease volumes a bit.

The Turnpike Authority is expecting more than 715,000 vehicles to travel the highway between Kittery and Augusta Friday through Monday. That’s about 2 percent less than the number of vehicles that traveled the turnpike over the Labor Day weekend last year.

“The deeper we get into September, the more people start thinking about school and other activities close to home,” said turnpike spokesman Dan Paradee. “On the other hand, the weather forecast is pretty spectacular, so we’ll be ready for a busy weekend,” he said.

Paradee said Friday is expected to be the busiest day on the turnpike overall. The heaviest volumes will occur between 3 and 6 p.m. Friday in the northbound direction and between noon and 6 p.m. Monday in the southbound direction. About 252,000 vehicles are expected to pass through the York Toll Plaza over the weekend.

For the 10th consecutive year, Miles the Maine Turnpike Moose, D. Claude Lobster and Laney the Lobster Fisherman will join toll collectors in handing out a special season-ending memento. This year 15,000 calendar-prints celebrating Maine’s first Open Lighthouse Day will be distributed beginning at 10 a.m. Monday to those leaving the state.

Open Lighthouse Day is scheduled for Sept. 12. The calendar-print, illustrated by Portland artist Bruce Hutchison, features Portland Head Light, Bass Harbor Light, Goat Island Light Station, West Quoddy Head Light Station, Monhegan Island Lighthouse and Pemaquid Point Light. On the reverse side is a listing of signature Maine events scheduled to occur across the state this fall. The events include everything from the Maine Salmon Festival in Eastport, to the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, to the 25th annual Harvestfest in York.

“It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing this Labor Day event for a decade,” Paradee said, “but it’s a great way to promote Maine and to say thanks to our visitors. It’s a lot of fun.”

Patricia Eltman, director of Maine’s Office of Tourism, is a big fan of the MTA’s Labor Day promotion.

“Saying ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ is such a good note to end the season on. We hope by letting people know about all the special events coming up this fall, they’ll plan a return trip soon,” said Eltman.

Cool, wet weather and a stagnant national economy dampened overall traffic growth during the summer season, but slight growth at the York Toll Plaza may be a bright sign for Maine’s tourism industry. A total of 19.9 million vehicles traveled the Maine Turnpike this summer season between June 1 and Aug. 31 — a decrease of 2 percent compared to the same time period last year. June traffic was down 4.9 percent, July was down by 1.6 percent, and August was down by less than 1 percent. Traffic volumes at York Toll Plaza between June 1 and Aug. 31 were up slightly by 1.2 percent. June traffic at York Toll was flat compared to last year. July traffic was up 4.3 percent and August traffic was down by about 1 percent.

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