Gas prices hit highest level in 2016 as vacationers prepare for Memorial Day holiday

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 21 views 

As Arkansas motorists count down the days to the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of the summer driving season, pump prices are peaking at their highest level in 2016 as gasoline retailers take advantage of the thousands of spring vacationers expected to jam the roads during the holiday.

According to AAA’s weekly fuel gauge, gas prices are at their highest point for the year and have increased 12 straight days in a row as of Monday (May 23), when the national average of $2.28 for a gallon of regular unleaded is up six cents per gallon on the week and 15 cents per gallon on the month.

Despite this increase, drivers remain on target to pay the lowest prices for the Memorial Day holiday since 2005. AAA projects more than 38 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend, which is an increase of 700,000 compared to a year ago. That is the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and the most since 2005. Nearly 34 million (89%) holiday travelers will drive to their Memorial Day destinations, an increase of 2.1% over last year.

“Americans are eagerly awaiting the start of summer and are ready to travel in numbers not seen in more than a decade,” said AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney. “The great American road trip is officially back thanks to low gas prices, and millions of people from coast to coast are ready to kick off summer with a Memorial Day getaway.”

AAA estimates that Americans have saved $18 billion on gas so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, and prices are at the lowest levels in 11 years. The strong labor market and rising personal income are also motivating people to travel for Memorial Day this year.

Still, for the first time since August 2015, drivers in every state and Washington, D.C. are paying averages above $2 per gallon. The nation’s top five most expensive markets are: California ($2.80), Hawaii ($2.66), Washington ($2.59), Alaska ($2.58) and Nevada ($2.49).

ARKANSAS GAS PRICES
In Arkansas, local motorists and vacationers will still see some of the lowest gas prices in the U.S. The nation’s top five least expensive markets are Mississippi ($2.05), South Carolina ($2.06), Arkansas ($2.06), Texas ($2.07) and Missouri ($2.07).

On Monday, Arkansas motorists were paying on average about $2.06 per gallon, seven cents cheaper than last week and 15 cents higher than a month ago. Still, pump prices in the Natural State are well below a year ago, when drivers were paying $2.46 per gasoline for regular unleaded, AAA data shows.

Pump prices in the state’s metropolitan areas range from a low of $2.01 per gallon in Northwest Arkansas to a high of nearly $2.10 in Pine Bluff. Prices in Fort Smith and the Little Rock metro area are $2.02 and $2.05 per gallon, respectively. Drivers in the Texarkana area on both sides of the state line are seeing prices at $2.09 per gallon, on average.

Drivers choosing to fill up their tanks with a higher-grade of gasoline should expect to pay an average premium of $2.51 a gallon across the state, AAA data shows. Big rig drivers and other diesel fuel users will see pump prices at about $2.11 a gallon, down from $2.69 per gallon from a year ago.

GasBuddy.com’s real-time data shows that despite the rapidly rising pump prices across there are still a few gasoline stations in Fort Smith, Bentonville, Rogers and other pockets of Northwest Arkansas where motorist can still fill-up for less than $1.92 per gallon. In its last update on Monday evening, GasBuddy’s Arkansas map shows The Hydration Station near Wheeler Avenue and South Fresno Street in Fort Smith with the lowest gas price in the state at $1.87 per gallon.

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