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Prices pump brakes on travel

Gas hits record highs across US, in Valley

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Loretta Eastlack of Cortland pumps gas Tuesday afternoon at Valley View Food Mart on Elm Road NE in Warren. Eastlack said she is “very upset” with the cost of gas. AAA predicts 39 million people will travel 50 or more miles this Memorial Day weekend.

Gas prices are up — way up — but that won’t deter travelers excited to kick off their summer this coming Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA.

Amid record-high average gas prices Tuesday, AAA’s Memorial Day Travel Forecast predicted 39 million people will travel 50 miles or more from their homes during the holiday weekend.

AAA reported the national average for regular unleaded gas at $4.523 per gallon and the Ohio average at $4.358 per gallon on Tuesday — both the highest-recorded average prices, according to AAA’s online gas prices portal.

Still, AAA predicts 34.9 million people will travel by car, 30.1 million by air and 1.33 million by other means between May 26 and May 30.

While not meeting 42.8 million people who traveled during 2019’s prepandemic Memorial Day weekend, this year is expected to see 3 million more people travel compared to last year.

That represents a 8.3 percent increase in overall travel since 2021.

Despite gas prices holding at well more than $4 per gallon, travel by car is expected to increase 4.6 percent from last year. Air travel, on the rebound after the pandemic, is expected to increase about 25 percent.

LOCAL RESPONSE

About a dozen local motorists at two area gas stations Tuesday, however, overwhelmingly said “no,” they aren’t going anywhere this coming holiday weekend.

“I can’t afford it. I’m gonna stay home,” Bill Sparks of Mineral Ridge said. Sparks said he sometimes travels to visit in-laws in Kentucky — about a six-hour drive — but isn’t doing so this Memorial Day.

Tuesday at Country Fair gas station on North Canfield-Niles Road, Sparks put two gallons in a gas container for a car he is working on and his lawnmower — and that cost him about $9.

Of the customers at Country Fair, about as many were filling up gas cans for lawnmowers as were putting gas in their vehicles. Most went inside to prepay a set amount that wouldn’t fill up their tank or gas can but will keep them going for a while. One Salem man put just $6 worth of gas in his minivan, adding, “It’s all I can afford.”

None were planning to travel for the holiday, although Chris Thorndike of Austintown said his daughter is coming to visit from Boston.

“So there is travel happening,” Thorndike said.

Regular gas at Country Fair and the nearby Sheetz and Pilot gas stations, all located just off the Interstate 80, 680 and Route 11 interchange, was $4.49 per gallon.

At Valley View Food Mart gas station on Elm Road NE in Warren, gasoline was 10 cents cheaper at $4.39. There, Chuckie Love of Warren put $60 in his vehicle, and still didn’t fill the tank.

Warren resident Brian Geddes, a truck driver by trade, spent more than $92 to fill his personal pickup truck, which still had some gas in the tank.

“It hurts,” Geddes said. He added it’s not just $92, it’s the time that he worked to get that money. “That’s four hours of my life that I just put into my gas tank.”

GAS PRICES

While slightly under both the national and Ohio average, regular gas prices in the Youngstown-Warren area sat at a staggering $4.354 per gallon Tuesday, according to AAA. That likewise is the highest-recorded average price for the area.

That average price was up from $4.291 Monday, $4.173 last week, $3.779 last month, and $2.870 last year.

Diesel in the Youngstown-Warren area Tuesday averaged $5.283 per gallon, just slightly lower than Monday’s high average of $5.290, according to AAA data.

The lowest average gas price for an Ohio county Tuesday was $4.252 per gallon in Meigs County in southeast Ohio. The highest county average was $4.474 per gallon in Morgan County, also in the southeast part of the state.

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