Relatively low gas prices driving holiday weekend travel boost

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – If you’re heading out of town for the 4th of July holiday, you’re in good company. According to AAA analysts, 44.2 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend – a new record for Independence Day travel.

The boost in travel numbers is thanks, at least in part, to relatively low prices at the pumps right now. The average cost of a gallon of gas in the Buffalo area is about $2.36.

Although many drivers wouldn’t exactly call that “cheap”, that is at least a little cheaper than it’s been and a lot cheaper than many would expect for this time of year. “Normally, summer blend gasoline is more expensive than the winter blend gasoline, and a lot of times, we see prices going up at peak summer travel season starting with Memorial Day through the 4th of July, but this year we’re actually seeing numbers come down,” said Elizabeth Carey, Public Relations Director for AAA of Western and Central New York.

AAA representatives say that comes down to supply and demand. Several months ago, OPEC announced it would be reducing production, which in turn would tighten the supply and drive up prices. The US responded by increasing production domestically, making enough to meet the demand, even for this time of year. “We’re seeing a lot of people traveling and a lot of demand for gasoline, but there’s a lot of gasoline stockpiled and a lot of gasoline in production so that’s bringing those gas prices down,” Carey explained.

In fact, gas is cheaper now than it was on New Year’s Day. Many drivers say they’re grateful for the savings. “Usually, on holiday weekends, the price goes up, so I’m surprised it hasn’t gone up,” said Tonawanda resident Jennifer Kirst as she filled up her gas tank Friday morning.

“I think it’s great!” said Buffalo resident Emanuel Williams. “It’s good for your pockets.”

It’s certainly good for people taking long road trips this holiday weekend, taking away a little of the anticipated pain at the pump. “Made it a lot easier,” said Mel Reyna, who is on a road trip to Niagara Falls from Chicago with his wife.

Reyna has a lot of company on the roads. AAA says the vast majority of those traveling for the Independence Day holiday are doing so by car. But, travel numbers are up across the board.

Air travel has increased 4.6 percent this year, while cruise and train travel are up 1.5 percent each.

“At AAA, we’re seeing a lot of people coming in an looking for maps and different destinations for places like the Outer Banks, Myrtle Beach, some people going to New York City, Boston,” Carey said. “Anywhere up and down the east coast is very popular right now.”

Just in time for the busy travel weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the suspension of many construction-related lane closures in the state. Most lanes will remain open through the morning of Wednesday, July 5.

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