Thanksgiving outlook: Crowded roads, falling gasoline prices

November 20, 2018 GMT

Traffic-choked roads may vex Houstonians traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, but at least they might find bargains at the gas pump.

Gasoline prices fell another 8 cents over the past week in the Houston area to an average $2.29, according to GasBuddy, a website that which tracks gasoline prices across country. Average gasoline prices in Houston are down 29 cents a gallon from a month ago; nationally, they’ve fallen to $2.60, down about 24 cents from a month ago, according to GasBuddy.

With GasBuddy predicting that gasoline prices will continue to fall into the weekend, drivers could find even better bargains, depending on where their travels take them. In some stations in San Antonio, for example, gasoline was selling for less than $2 a gallon Monday.

The slide in gasoline prices follows the plunge in crude oil that began in early October, when oil rose above $76 a barrel. Crude settled in New York Monday at $57.20 a barrel, down about 25 percent from the recent peak.

The auto club AAA and the research firm IHS Markit estimate that drivers traveling the nation’s roads and highways for the holiday will increase about 5 percent from last year to 48.5 million, the most since 2005. In Houston, Monday afternoon was expected to be the worst day for holiday drivers, according to AAA. The area with the heaviest traffic this week are expected to be TX-8 Beltway E, TX-249 to I-69, with travel times up to nearly three times longer than usual.

And it could be worse. Even though as gasoline prices have dropped they are still the highest for this time of year since 2014, GasBuddy said. Houston area gasoline prices average about 9 cents a gallon more than last year.

That could put a damper on some people’s driving, according to Gas Buddy. About one-third of people surveyed said higher gasoline price would affect their travel plans this week.

All told, AAA predicts 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, crowding not only roads, but airports. The Houston Airport System expects 1.7 million people to travel through its two airports over the holiday. Between Friday and Nov. 26, Monday, some 1.25 million people are expected to depart, land or connect through Bush Intercontinental Airport. Hobby Airport is expecting roughly 500,000 travelers during that same time frame.

Trade group Airlines for America is projecting a record 30.6 million passengers will fly between Friday and Nov. 27. That’s up from an estimated 29 million passengers during the 2017 travel period.