Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
The Maine Turnpike Authority expects that coronavirus restrictions will compel a vast drop in traffic over the next three months, and while things should improve after that, it is likely to finish the year with revenues cut by as much as $20 million.
The Portland Press Herald reports that the authority expects to see its normal April revenue cut in half, a 30 percent decrease in May and a 25 percent reduction in June. For the rest of the year, it anticipates highway use to be down 10 percent monthly, with perhaps a bit worse of a showing as the holidays approach.
With $132 million in cash on hand, however, the authority’s expected losses will not have a great impact. Treasurer Doug Davidson’s report to the authority’s board of directors cited March 16 as the day when traffic and revenues “kind of went off a cliff.” Since then, traffic has been off an average of 56 percent daily, the Press Herald reports.
Revenues haven’t taken quite as big a hit thanks to “a surge in trucks” using the road, Davidson said.
“Heavy trucks have been amazing,” he said, with their volume actually up as much as 8 percent as companies struggle to fill shelves at Walmart and the Amazon warehouse in Lewiston. Poland Springs also has a lot of trucks on the road, he said.
Only about a quarter of the turnpike’s staff is currently working since the pandemic began, officials said late last month. The turnpike’s headquarters in Portland has about 15 people on the job, down from more than 100 most weekdays.
Davidson developed the estimates after canvassing eight banks, bond underwriters and others. He said he took a more conservative approach than most of his advisors.
There is some indication that a turnaround is already underway. Passenger-car volumes are increasing, and Davidson said the experts anticipate a spike in traffic by June as people take their traditional summer getaways, the Press Herald reports.
Watch: Maine’s interstate traffic is down 53 percent