AUGUSTA, Maine — Travel within Maine continued to rebound over the July 4 holiday, but traffic fell short of pre-pandemic levels over the rainy long weekend.
The number of vehicles passing through Maine Department of Transportation checkpoints across the state for the week of July 4 was up 20 percent compared with last year but still down 5 percent compared with 2019, according to state data. Bad weather may have stunted things as the state’s tourism sector looks to recover from a difficult year.
The patterns were fairly consistent across the state. Northbound crossings on Interstate 95 at the New Hampshire state line in Kittery were up 25 percent compared with last year, when interstate travel was limited by pandemic-related restrictions. But they were still down 5 percent compared with the same period in 2019, when the bridge saw more than 350,000 northbound crossings within a week.
Traffic was similarly down in several tourist hotspots. In Portland, Maine DOT measurement points saw an average of 4.2 percent fewer vehicles compared with 2019. Traffic on the Thompson Island Bridge, which leads to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, was down by a nearly identical 4.3 percent.
Rural areas saw reduced traffic counts as well, in contrast to Memorial Day weekend, when several measurement points in northern Maine saw increased travel compared with both 2019 and 2020, part of a trend toward increased tourism in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
Only a handful of measurement points — including those in Dexter, Boothbay and Hallowell — saw increased traffic compared with two years ago over the July 4 holiday. There was no major increase among coastal or inland towns.
Traffic numbers were especially low on July 4 itself, with statewide vehicle counts down 12 percent compared with 2019. The decline in travel on the holiday accompanied especially poor weather conditions across the state.
In Portland, the high temperature of 62 degrees on July 4 was the third-lowest high temperature ever recorded in the city for that date, according to the National Weather Service. Bangor got nearly 2 inches of rain, according to the agency, leading to the cancellation of the city’s July 4 parade. The city also saw a high temperature of just 57 degrees on the holiday, a lower temperature than what it recorded on Christmas Day last year.