Wednesday morning, a crush of Independence Day tourists was still heading south at summer Sunday levels.
Early tallies by the Maine Turnpike Authority indicate particularly good signs for holiday tourism over the Fourth of July, confirming that many travelers extended the weekend through Wednesday morning. And the traffic remained manageable.
“Perhaps every national holiday should fall on a Tuesday,” wrote Turnpike Authority Director Peter Mills in an email Wednesday.
Mills said by phone that the turnpike didn’t see its normal weekend exodus until this morning, when hourly traffic at the York toll plaza almost hit its maximum of about 4,000 vehicles an hour.
Southbound traffic peaked for the weekend at about 3,905 vehicles per hour at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Last year, the holiday fell on a Monday.
Mills said by phone that the traffic pattern was manageable for the authority, which has for years tried to convince more visitors to prolong weekend stays by one day, to ease the afternoon burden on summer Sundays and Monday holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“Labor Day afternoon is the worst of the year,” Mills said of the holiday, which falls this year on Sept. 4.
Total Independence Day weekend traffic through the York plaza was up about 1.7 percent over last year, from Friday to Sunday. Traffic everywhere on the turnpike was up about 5.6 percent compared with last year, indicating higher levels of travel within the state, too.
The higher weekend total included a drop in traffic on Friday, perhaps reflecting people avoiding bad weather Friday afternoon and less of a rush heading into what was a longer weekend for many travelers.
The figures bolster AAA’s projection that Independence Day traffic would rise this year, a trend it said would be driven by a stronger economy and still-low gas prices.