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Fourth of July travel forecast: higher gas prices, surge in drivers

Gas prices in Tampa Bay have risen a dime in the last week. Prices across the country are about 62 cents higher than they were this time last year. | [Times file photo]
Gas prices in Tampa Bay have risen a dime in the last week. Prices across the country are about 62 cents higher than they were this time last year. | [Times file photo]
Published Jul. 3, 2018

Gas prices may be higher than they were last Independence Day, but that won't stop a record-breaking number of Americans from traveling by car this holiday.

AAA, which has tracked travel numbers over Fourth of July for the last 18 years, reports that the number of on-the-road travelers will be up 5 percent from 2017. That's despite gas prices going up an average of 62 cents across the country from a year ago.

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In Tampa Bay, gas prices have risen about a dime in the last week, according to GasBuddy, which tracks prices nationwide. Florida's average gas price was about $2.72 as of Monday — that's 56 cents higher than it was last year. Local pumps are just below that at about $2.67.

"Oil has surged over 10 percent just in time for summer's busiest travel holiday, costing motorists over $1 billion more than last year," Patrick DeHaan, a GasBuddy analyst, said in a news release. "All the ingredients exist for the national average to inch closer to $3 per gallon, just in time for the second half of the summer."

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Analysts with AAA say even though prices are on the rise, they will still remain well below the $3.60 average from Independence Day 2014.

AAA says that the Fourth of July falling on Wednesday this year has given travelers more flexibility to schedule trips either the weekend before or after the holiday. That could account for the increase is drivers this year.

Analysts with the travel organization predict traffic to be at its worst on Tuesday in the late afternoon.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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