A motorist from Massachusetts flies an American flag ahead of the Memorial Day holiday while traveling on the Maine Turnpike, Friday, May 28, 2021, in Kennebunk. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Travel on the Maine Turnpike is projected to near 2019 levels over the July 4 weekend, a positive sign as the tourism industry aims for a strong post-pandemic summer.

The Maine Turnpike Authority is predicting more than 1.1 million transactions on the turnpike between Friday and Monday, up 36 percent from the same period last year. The total would be down less than 1 percentage point from 2019, which saw the highest level of turnpike travel ever.

The weekend comes as Maine’s tourism industry hopes for a busy summer to help make up for losses due to pandemic-related travel restrictions last year. With the end of Gov. Janet Mills’ state of emergency on Wednesday, the state has lifted all coronavirus-related business restrictions, though federal requirements about mask use on transit still remain.

Nationwide, AAA predicts that travel will increase by 40 percent over July 4 weekend compared to last year, falling just short of 2019 levels. Car travel is expected to rebound most, while air, bus and train volumes should lag pre-pandemic levels. In Maine, Saturday is expected to see the heaviest turnpike traffic, according to the authority, with more than 350,000 transactions.

Travel in Maine rebounded significantly over Memorial Day weekend this year, although gains were not spread evenly. Rural parts of northern and western Maine saw the most significant jumps in travel, as more people sought out less-traveled areas, while traditional tourist towns in southern Maine still trailed pre-pandemic levels.