A Longer Long Weekend
Like everywhere across the Commonwealth and the nation, the pandemic was a great disrupter of travel. Nationwide, a shift to remote work, business closures in the early months of the pandemic, and social distancing measures translated into less time spent in the car and on the roads.
Cape Cod Commission staff tracked traffic trends across the region through the height of the pandemic. This regularly updated data provided a vital indicator of the pandemic’s impact on regional traffic patterns.
Cape Cod was somewhat unique in how traffic patterns evolved over the pandemic. While travel over the bridges was down significantly in 2020, 2021 saw the highest number of vehicle trips recorded over the Cape Cod Canal bridges, more than 38.8 million.
According to traffic counters maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), travel over the Bourne and Sagamore bridges was down 48% in April 2020. As the year progressed, traffic volumes began to return to normal levels. Overall, bridge traffic was down approximately 15% in 2020 compared to 2019.
Canal bridge traffic remained below normal until June 2021, when volume hit and exceeded normal levels. Above-average traffic volumes continued from June through October 2021, resulting in a record-breaking year. Traffic counters on the canal bridges ended the year recording over 38.8 million vehicle trips.
So far this year, traffic trends on the canal bridges have been very similar to 2021. Volume over the bridges dipped slightly from June 2021 to 2022 but increased over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Most visitors to the Cape traveled on Thursday, June 30. MassDOT counters measured 84,393 trips heading on Cape that day. The numbers show that visitors stayed for an extended weekend. Travel back off-Cape was heaviest on Tuesday, July 5, when counters measured 91,179 vehicle trips traveling off-Cape over the Canal bridges.
Commission staff will continue to track traffic data through the summer and update the traffic trends dashboard.