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Travel plans Wheeling Street is closed for bridgework at I-280 in Oregon, but all freeway lanes will be open this weekend. Construction will affect traffic on I-475 in West Toledo and on the turnpike east of Fremont.
Wheeling Street is closed for bridgework at I-280 in Oregon, but all freeway lanes will be open this weekend. Construction will affect traffic on I-475 in West Toledo and on the turnpike east of Fremont.
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Published: Thursday, 6/30/2011

Fluctuations in fuel prices reroute some travel plans

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dan Jeffries wondered Wednesday while filling up gas cans for mowing the eight acres of grass on his Lake Township homestead: Should he also top off the tank in his motor home, which he plans to drive at least as far as Wisconsin for a vacation next week, or wait until after the holiday weekend?

The motor home's 80-gallon tank holds enough fuel to safely get to Sunny's Campground in Fulton County for an Independence Day campout, Mr. Jeffries said. The key to the question was whether gasoline prices' steady decline for most of June will continue in July, or will the bounce they took at many local filling stations on Tuesday back to the mid-$3.40s for self-service regular reflect the new month's trend?

The price for regular at the Pilot truck stop near the Ohio Turnpike in Lake Wednesday suggested the former -- it was still at $3.239 per gallon, as was the TA Travel Center across the street, while the Fuel Mart on the far side of State Rt. 420 asked $3.229 per gallon. On the other hand, those prices weren't nearly as good as the sub-$3 gas Mr. Jeffries heard about on Monday from a relative who lives in West Toledo, but which according to the Web site www.gasbuddy.com was long gone by Wednesday.

"I was kind of hoping the gas would keep on coming down," Mr. Jeffries said.

The average local price reported Wednesday afternoon by gasbuddy's volunteer spotters, $3.408 per gallon, was 41 cents lower than a month earlier, on Memorial Day. And relative bargains were out there to be found: some filling stations were still in the $3.10s per gallon.

"It's nice that it's coming down," J.J. Sandberg, of Pemberville, said while filling up at the TA Travel Center Wednesday.

But both nationally and locally, gasoline remains considerably more expensive this Fourth of July than it was a year ago, and AAA's holiday travel forecast indicates that will keep at least a few motorists close to home who might have gone away for vacations in the past -- especially those of more modest means.

People with household incomes of $50,000 or less are expected to account for 33 percent of those traveling more than 50 miles from home this weekend, down from 41 percent last year, the auto club said, while the share of such travel by people with household incomes exceeding $100,000 will grow to 35 percent from 26 percent.

Overall, AAA predicted a 2.5 percent decline in Independence Day travel, which it also blamed on the cost of gasoline. The auto club expects 39 million Americans to travel more than 50 miles from home between Thursday and Monday, down from 40 million a year ago.

And while the vast majority will continue to drive to their destinations, nearly all of the expected decline will occur among that group. Air travel is expected to increase by 250,000, to about 3 million, despite recent airfare increases. Another three million are expected to travel by bus, train, or watercraft during the holiday.

Of those surveyed for AAA, 56 percent said gasoline prices would not affect travel plans, while most of the rest said they would cut spending in other areas to offset fuel costs and about 13 percent planned to take shorter trips or change how they travel.

Mr. Sandberg is staying close to home this weekend, expecting to travel no farther than the fireworks display in Bowling Green. The same holds for Natalie Renken, of Woodville, who said the existence of several festivals in the area during the Fourth means "we just stay right there."

But with her entire family commuting 35 to 40 minutes to get to work, Ms. Renken said gasoline's price retreat after a high $4.10s peak in early May is still very welcome.

"It's a lot better now. I would be glad to see it in the $2.20s, but …" she said, trailing off.

Those hitting the highways in the Toledo area should remain alert for construction, particularly on I-475 in West Toledo and on the Ohio Turnpike east of Fremont. Wheeling Street remains closed for bridge reconstruction at I-280 in Oregon, but all freeway lanes there will be open during the long weekend.

Weather in the region is expected to be mostly favorable for travel, with only 30 percent chances of showers and thunderstorms on Friday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service office in Cleveland. After several recent days of cool, dry weather in Toledo, more typical heat and humidity were forecast to return by Saturday, with a forecast high that day of 91 and a muggy 69 for a low that evening.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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