July 4th gas price is highest since ’08, but Minnesotans still hit the road

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2014 - 7:00 AM

But the rising costs aren’t deterring travelers headed Up North for the holiday.

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A customer puts fuel in his vehicle at a Shell gas station in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Gasoline climbed in New York trading as crude advanced before talks between the U.S. and Russia over disposing of Syria�s chemical weapons and as U.S. jobless claims dropped. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

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Gas prices for the July 4th weekend are the highest they’ve been in six years.

Twin Cities drivers usually catch a break in June as seasonal spikes in prices often top out around Memorial Day and then taper off. But gas averaged $3.57 per gallon Wednesday morning — 15 to 20 cents higher than a year ago and 70 cents more than in December — thanks, in part, to the political uncertainty in Iraq.

And prices aren’t likely to drop significantly any time soon, says the Minneapolis AAA.

The only good news is Minnesotans are paying less than drivers in surrounding states.

In Wisconsin, gas costs an average of about 12 cents more per gallon, according to AAA. On Wednesday, you could pay as little as $3.49 per gallon in West Lakeland Township, on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River. The price jumped to $3.65 in River Falls, Wis., according to petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.

Gas prices were generally higher in Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, too.

Still, the higher prices at the pump aren’t keeping Minnesotans from heading Up North, to the lake or to the cabin.

Gigi Hassani was packing up the kids and heading to Park Rapids on Wednesday.

“This is probably the one and only time we’re leaving town, due to gas prices,” Hassani, 36, said after filling up at the Holiday station near 50th and France in Minneapolis. “But what can you do? I need gas, so I guess I need to pay whatever the going rate is.”

Jamie Christianson, Minneapolis AAA spokeswoman, said the job market and economy are making people more willing to spend what it takes to get away. “The employment outlook has improved and people are willing to take on more debt for a much-needed vacation.”

‘Look, I’m going Up North’

Hotel prices also have risen by about 15 percent nationwide since last Independence Day, according to AAA. Yet, 5 million more Americans are expected to travel this week than a year ago.

“Look, I’m going Up North no matter what it cost,” said Mary Wade, 77, who drove her Ford Escape this week from Austin, Texas, to her hometown of Minneapolis. She plans to visit Lake Itasca this weekend, then Duluth and Lake Superior.

“I’ve already driven 1,150 miles just to get here,” she said. “At this point, I’m not going to worry about gas prices.”

Russell Bremner, 82, agreed as he filled the tank of his Lexus and headed from the Twin Cities to Ten Mile Lake, near Hackensack, in north-central Minnesota.

“I don’t pay attention to it,” he said of gas prices. “Now, if it was $4 a gallon, I don’t know if I’d be in such a hurry. But it’s not, and I’m looking forward to this trip.”

The national average for a gallon of gas was $3.68 Wednesday — about five cents higher than a gallon in Duluth.

High gas prices this time of year are not new. Last July 16, the average gas price in the Twin Cities was $3.69 — the highest in the past 12 months, said DeHaan, one of the experts supporting the Internet site twincitiesgasprices.com. Twin Cities gas prices had dropped to a 12-month low of $2.87 on Dec. 16, DeHaan said.

  • Average Gas prices in the Twin Cities

    Wed: $3.57

    July 2, 2013: $3.34

    July 16 : $3.69 (1 year high)

    Dec. 16: $2.87 (1 year low)

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