Pike’s peak: Toll data signals better Maine tourism season

If you’ve felt the Maine Turnpike is more crowded than last year, it’s not just you.

Traffic through the first two weekends of busiest August was up about 1.6 percent and passenger traffic (cars, motorcycles and buses with fewer than 13 passengers) was up more than 5 percent from January-July.

The latest figures are one sign that Maine’s tourism season will be more robust than last year, with total transactions (commercial and passenger) up at each stop in the state for July.

Below: darker green shows larger change from 2014, size shows relative transaction volume by stop for July 2015.

The largest increase for July — compared with the same month last year — was at the Scarborough exit, up 8.5 percent.

The York toll plaza, with traffic up about 5.8 percent, represented the largest transaction volume increase as it dominates transaction volumes on the Turnpike and netted the largest average fare, of $3.68, in July.

It accounted for almost half of toll transaction revenue for the month, bringing in about $6.7 million for the month, up 4.8 percent from the same month in 2014.

Both passenger and commercial traffic was up in July, with a larger annual increase in passenger traffic.

That bodes well for August, which has from 2007-2014 had an average of about 300,000 more passenger toll transactions than July.

As I mentioned earlier, passenger toll transactions through the first two weekends of August were already up 1.6 percent, by 40,000 transactions.

Another common indicators of the strength of this year’s tourism season is up as well.

Restaurant and lodging sales, based on sales tax receipts, are up an average of 5.5 percent for the year, from January through May. The strongest monthly increase so far came in May, according to Maine Revenue Service figures, with a 9.8 percent increase.

Sales tax in that category has risen steadily each year since 2010, with the largest increase in 2012, of 6 percent. Sales in those two areas are on track to outpace growth for 2013 and 2014.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.