As expected, highway traffic numbers are plummeting 

Monitor staff
Published: 3/24/2020 12:47:50 PM

New Hampshire might not be in lock-down but people are definitely staying home, as reflected in our cars and our electricity usage.

Total traffic through tollbooths in New Hampshire last week fell by almost one-half from the week before and featured far fewer trips than even the first week of December 2019, when a surprise snowstorm emptied roads for days.

The state’s turnpike system for the week ending Sunday, March 22, saw 1.35 million payments at tollbooths, a full 630,000 fewer than the week before and half a million fewer than slowest week of the past year. Normally, a week’s traffic is slightly over 2 million trips, judging from Department of Transportation data for the fiscal year starting last July.

The drop is likely to prove a financial burden to the state as tolls and gasoline tax are a major revenue source for highway and bridge maintenance.

Another sign of the change wrought by COVID-19 is seen in electricity usage.

ISO-New England, the group that oversees the six-state power grid, says on corporate blog related to COVID-19 that it “is seeing a decline in system demand of approximately 3% to 5%, compared to what would normally be expected under weather conditions in the region.”

“These societal changes are also affecting demand patterns across the region. Our forecasters are seeing load patterns that resemble those of snow days, when schools are closed and many are home during the day. These patterns include a slower than normal ramp of usage in the morning, and increased energy use in the afternoon,” the group said.

It adds, however, that “though the pandemic is affecting energy usage, weather conditions remain the primary drivers of system demand.”

In hard-hit areas of Europe such as northern Italy, electricity demand has fallen by as much as 20% as manufacturers and retailers close, more than making up for increased demand by stay-at-home residences.

Traffic numbers

Traffic on New Hampshire turnpike system is plummeting, judging from trips at the state’s tollbooths. Here’s data for the past four weeks:

WEEK ENDING – TOTAL TRIPS

MARCH 1 – 2,109,479

March 8 – 2,157,186

March 15 – 1,985,029

March 22 – 1,351,693

Source: New Hampshire Department of Transportation

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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