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October 11, 2013

Holiday forecast: Heavy traffic, peak foliage

Visitors should expect peak foliage, heavy traffic

It may be cloudy today, but plenty of sun, warm weather and brilliant foliage are expected to draw thousands of visitors to New Hampshire this holiday weekend.

To be exact, an estimated 625,000 visitors are expected — a record number who will spend roughly $91 million, according to the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development. It’s a 2 percent increase in visitors over last year.

But Columbus Day weekend travelers may want to get an early start if possible since a record number of drivers are expected to hit the roads.

State police and transportation officials in New Hampshire and Massachusetts have been gearing up for major traffic, planning extra patrols along highways.

The opening today of a new southbound on-ramp at Exit 2 off Interstate 93 in Salem could cause some confusion and minor delays for drivers, but no major problems, according to Jay Levine of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation warned travelers to plan for one of the busiest days of the year at state tolls. Many of those drivers will be heading north to New Hampshire to enjoy its foliage, mountains and other attractions.

The fact that gas prices have dropped several cents in the last week and will continue to do so is also good news for travelers, according to petroleum analyst Gregg Laskoski of GasBuddy.com.

But tourists who plan to camp in the White Mountain National Forest may want to think again. There are 21 campgrounds and hundreds of campsites in the forest that remain closed because of the federal government shutdown.

Otherwise, state tourism officials say it’s a great time to visit, especially with foliage at its peak in much of New Hampshire.

Not even a government shutdown can prevent leaf peepers from enjoying the bright red, orange and gold leaves prevalent across the state, according to Tai Freligh, spokesman for the Division of Travel and Tourism Development.

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