More people to travel as gas prices fall

July 1, 2016 GMT

The sign at the Kroger gas station at West State Boulevard and St. Marys Avenue on Thursday afternoon told a lot of the story about this weekend’s travel trend.

At $1.99 a gallon for regular – and a penny or two different at other stations nearby – the falling price of gas can mean only one thing.

It’s a good time to fill up the tank and get the heck outta town.

“In other years, there was concern about the price of gas. We’re not hearing that this year,” said Kristen Guthrie, director of marketing at Visit Fort Wayne, of the prospects for Independence Day weekend travel.

Indeed, 43 million Americans are expected to travel between Thursday and Monday, the highest number on record, according to the American Automobile Association. In Indiana, 1.3 million are expected to travel, a 1.3 percent increase over last year.

The number means 1 in 6 Hoosiers will be away from home this weekend. About 890,000 will travel by car, up about, 1.2 percent from last year and about 45,000 will fly, down 0.2 percent from 2015.

Joseph J. Richardson, president and CEO of AAA-The Auto Club Group, said low gas prices are driving much of the exodus.

“Independence Day is always the most-traveled holiday of the summer, but this year it will be bigger than ever, primarily because of low gas prices,” he said, adding those prices are also fueling airline travel because they make it more affordable to fly.

According to AAA, Indiana gas prices for all grades this week averaged $2.38 a gallon, down from about $2.79 last year. The current Indiana average stands at 5 cents more than the national average.

Locally, motorists Thursday easily could find regular gas for just under $2 – 66 cents less than they did just two weeks ago, according to www.GasBuddy.com. That’s a drop of about 25 percent.

Gasoline has been on a general upward trend in Fort Wayne since February, when the average for regular hit a low of $1.39, according to the website’s historical data.

The last time regular hovered around $2 was in early May.

Even though many area residents are leaving Fort Wayne for lake country or elsewhere for the three-day holiday weekend, Guthrie said the city won’t be empty, as lower gas prices also are leading to travel to Fort Wayne by residents of other areas in the region.

She expects many people to be traveling to Fort Wayne for a Travis Tritt concert at the Foellinger Theatre tonight and two events at Parkview Field – the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s Patriotic Pops concert Sunday and a TinCaps game Monday.

Both stadium events will be followed by fireworks.

Lauren Zuber, airport services and marketing manager for the Fort Wayne International Airport, said weekend travel to from the airport appears brisk.

“We’re anticipating a pretty full weekend,” she said reminding travelers to leave earlier than usual in anticipation of heavier traffic.

Airfares on 40 of the most popular airline routes are down about 9 percent from last July 4 for an average round trip fare of $207, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.

Fort Wayne resident Tim Banks, 52, pumping gas into his 2007 Hyundai Sonata on Wednesday afternoon, said he couldn’t pass up gas near $2 a gallon, even though he doesn’t plan on leaving town.

“I’d probably be traveling if I had some place to go,” he said with a laugh.

He said he’ll be spending the July 4 holiday as he usually does – at home at a small family cookout with some fireworks.

But this year, at least, he just might be able to have a few more bangs for his bucks.