Expect low fuel prices and busy highways for the Labor Day weekend

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 124 views 

As gasoline prices move closer and maybe below the $2 a gallon price point, Arkansas and U.S. travelers are expected to flood the roadways, airways and tourism destinations during the upcoming Labor Day holiday that will bring an end to the nation’s traditional summer vacation season.

AAA Travel projects 35.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, the highest volume for the holiday post-recession and a one percent increase over 2014.

Nearly 86% of travelers (30.4 million) will celebrate the holiday with a final road trip before summer comes to a close and children head back to school in some parts of the country. The Labor Day holiday travel begins Thursday (Sept. 3) and runs Monday through Sept. 7.

Air travel is expected to grow 1.5% this Labor Day holiday, as the 2.64 million travelers are expected to make up 7.4% of all holiday travel. This will be the highest volume of air travel since 2007 for this holiday period.

And for those holiday travelers hitting the highways, most drivers should pay the lowest gas prices for Labor Day weekend since 2004. The national average price for regular unleaded gasoline has fallen for 16 consecutive days for a total of 23 cents per gallon.

Contributing to the positive forecast for cheap gas prices are regional, national and global supply and demand fundamentals that continue to place more downward pressure on crude oil prices. That trend is expected to continue well into 2016, said Will Speer, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“As motorists wrap up their summer vacation road trips, demand for gasoline slips in autumn and winter. At the same time, refining margins are strong and with the switch to cheaper winter grade gasoline in the coming month, ample supply of discounted gasoline will be available to motorists. It’s the perfect recipe for savings at the pump until the end of the year,” Speer said.

As of Wednesday, the average price of nearly $2.45 per gallon marks a savings of 10 cents per gallon compared to one week ago and 20 cents per gallon versus one month ago. Drivers nationwide continue to benefit from the relatively low price of crude oil with today’s average about 98 cents per gallon less than a year ago, AAA officials said.

On the whole, motorists nationwide are paying less per gallon at the pump. The average price is down week-over-week in 49 states and Washington, D.C., with the majority of states (45) posting savings of a nickel or more per gallon over this same period.

Consumers in 16 states are benefiting from double-digit savings in the price of retail gasoline, led by Michigan (-31 cents), Ohio (-30 cents), Indiana (-29 cents) and Illinois (-26 cents). Utah (+1 cent) is the only state that bucks this trend of weekly savings.

In Arkansas, motorists today are paying an average of $2.17 per gallon to fill up their tank across the state, according to AAA. Pump prices in the state’s metropolitan areas range from a low of $2.07 per gallon in the Texarkana area to a high of $2.20 in the Pine Bluff area.

Motorists in the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area are seeing prices at an average of $2.15 per gallon, and travelers and residents in Fort Smith are paying about $2.17 per gallon. Residents in the Little Rock-North Little Rock area are paying an average of $2.14 a gallon to fill up their tanks, although several stations across the city are down to as low as $2.03 a gallon, according to GasBusddy.com.

Drivers choosing to fill up the tanks with a higher-grade of gasoline should expect to pay an average premium of $2.66 a gallon across the state. Big rig drivers and other diesel fuel users will see pump prices at about $2.39 a gallon, down four cents from a week ago.

Meanwhile, drivers and other motorists traveling to state parks or other tourist destinations, or those simply passing through the Natural State, will have to deal with a number of construction projects, lane closures and maintenance on Arkansas interstates and highways.

For those holiday travelers who are traveling to the Mulberry Mount Lodge area in the heart of the state’s Ozark National Forest, State Highway 23, detours have been established for routing traffic around a hill slide on State Highway 23, approximately 5.5 miles north of Cass.

Large cracks have formed in the travel lanes, rendering both impassable, according to state highway officials. This closure includes 3.2 miles of State Highway 23 between the Mulberry Mountain Lodge (south end) and Fly Gap Road (north end). This section will remain closed until repairs can be made, which may be several weeks, officials said.

For complete information on construction zones, closed roads and possible traffic tie-ups over the Labor Day travel weekend, motorists can check travel conditions at www.IDriveArkansas.com.