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, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Turnpike expects just over 1 million vehicles over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, a total that would break the record set in 2019.

The 1.04 million vehicles expected between Friday and Monday on the toll highway between Kittery and Augusta would narrowly outpace the high of 1.01 million from four years ago over the holiday weekend that marks the traditional start of Maine’s summer tourism season.

It would be a major step in Maine’s economic rebound from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of visitors dropped slightly between 2021 and 2022, but restaurant and hotel spending led to a 10 percent increase in output for a sector that generated $15.8 billion in total economic impact last year, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.

Increases in travel to rural destinations marked the tourism rebound of 2021 after the initial pandemic-related shutdowns of 2020. Travel fell short of the Maine Turnpike Authority’s projections last year, when it originally predicted 1.4 million travelers but remained at 942,000, 7 percent below the record, due in part to record-high gas prices and unsettled weather.

In Maine, regular gas prices are averaging $3.49 per gallon compared with $4.73 a year ago. The weather outlook is good, with Bangor and Presque Isle expected to see temperatures climb into the 80s on Saturday and Sunday. It will be slightly cooler but still sunny in Portland. Cooler temperatures are expected on Friday, with showers possible in northern and eastern Maine.

“We should see quite a bit of traffic,” Erin Courtney, a spokesperson for the turnpike authority, said.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...