You Can Get There From Here: The Maine Turnpike Turns 75

As the turnpike passes a major milestone, we take a look in the rearview.

Entrance to the Maine Turnpike, circa 1950
The entrance to the Maine Turnpike, circa 1950. Courtesy of the Maine Turnpike Authority.
By Will Grunewald
From our January 2023 issue
Mile 1 southbound, in September 1956. Courtesy of the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Even by present standards, Route 1 traffic in southern Maine was unbearable by the late 1930s. The drive from Kittery to Portland could take several hours, especially in summer, thanks to the state’s burgeoning reputation as Vacationland. Then, on December 13, 1947, a ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the brand-new Maine Turnpike to streams of Chevy Fleetmasters, DeSotos, and Lincoln Continentals. All of a sudden, that same drive to Portland reliably took less than an hour — and that’s not the only impressive stat the turnpike has racked up over the past 75 years.


Vehicles that traveled the turnpike in its first year. Now, that’s only about one week’s worth of turnpike traffic.


Tax dollars budgeted to the Maine Turnpike Authority. The turnpike is funded by tolls, two-thirds of which are paid by travelers from out of state.


Total miles on the turnpike from Kittery to Augusta. The remaining 190-mile stretch of I-95, to the Canadian border, is a publicly funded freeway.


Tons of road salt the turnpike’s seven storage sheds can collectively hold. That’s the equivalent weight of about 11,500 Subaru Foresters.


Superhighway completed in the country, after the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Nationwide work on the Interstate Highway System didn’t commence until nine years later.