How To Beat Thanksgiving Traffic In N.H. (Or At Least Feel Better About It)

Nov 26, 2019

The Hollywood Freeway, May 1972.
Credit National Archives at College Park

Heading to Uncle Morty’s for a little dry turkey and pie this Thanksgiving? Worried about the traffic? 

Data from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation suggests you're better off waiting until Thursday to hit the road, if possible. 

During the past five years, an average of 329,343 vehicles have passed through toll booths on New Hampshire's highways on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Compare that with the holiday itself, when 258,655 cars and trucks paid a toll.

Turns out, if stop-and-go traffic is your passion, the moveable feast that is Thanksgiving isn’t your holiday. Instead, the DOT reports that the Monday of Columbus Day weekend is the single busiest holiday on the roads in New Hampshire. More than 381,000 cars - no doubt chock full of leaf peepers - hit the highways in mid-October each year.

Heck, even Labor Day draws more cars - 335,341 of them - than any single day of the Thanksgiving holiday. (Are they all headed to Francestown for the rummage sale?)

While the DOT doesn’t keep toll stats on Valentine’s Day, it does have data for other “major” holidays going all the way back to 1988. On Thanksgiving of that year, 153,337 cars (the Ford Escort was the best seller that year) graced New Hampshire’s highways.

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR

If you are passing through Beantown this weekend, make sure you’ve got plenty of podcasts in cue and snacks on hand, because, boy, that city’s got bad traffic. Our friends at the Globe are going deep on the topic, including this one: “The 14 worst people on the Mass. Pike, ranked.

And how's this for a side dish: the road warriors of Merrimack, besieged by toll booths on all sides for a generation, need only stock the ashtray of their Tesla Truck with quarters for a few more months. This week, the Executive Council voted to eliminate the Exit 11 toll on the Everett Turnpike, though the free rides won't begin until January 1st.