DES MOINES — Iowans who are planning trips this week will find plenty of company on the road. The number of travelers over the Fourth of July weekend is expected to set a record not just for the holiday, but for all holidays.
Rose White, spokeswoman for Triple-A-Iowa, estimates a record 49-million Americans will be taking trips of 50-miles or more from home during the long weekend. “This is the highest level since AAA began tracking holiday travel 19 years ago,” White says. “We predict drivers will experience the greatest amount of congestion in the major metro areas on Wednesday, July 3, as the commuters mix with the holiday travelers.”
Travel volume for the holiday is expected to rise more than four-percent, with nearly two-million more vacationers than a year ago. A record high 41-million people will be traveling by car, which means higher demand for gasoline. “For Iowa, prices are much lower than the national average, currently sitting at $2.53 a gallon, which is 16 cents lower than a year ago,” White says.
Factors driving the boost in travel numbers include favorable gas prices, low unemployment, robust consumer spending, and rising disposable incomes. A large refinery in Pennsylvania is shutting down, following recent explosions and fires. White was asked what effect it might have on gas prices in Iowa. “It may or may not, at this point, we don’t know,” White says. “It certainly will impact the region along the East Coast but as they do need additional supplies from other sources, if they do have to tap into some of those in the Midwest, it could certainly tighten our supplies as well.”
The national average price for gas is $2.69, down 15-cents from a year ago. In Iowa, the cheapest gas is selling in Sioux City at $2.38 a gallon while Dubuque has the most expensive gas at $2.67.