Idaho drivers face high gas costs on holiday weekend

Lewiston TribuneAugust 30, 2013 

— Even the sixth-highest gas prices in the country won’t keep 11 percent of Idahoans from hitting the road this Labor Day weekend.

"They might grouse about gasoline prices, but it won’t keep them from traveling," said Dave Carlson, spokesman for AAA Idaho.

It doesn’t matter, Carlson said, that Idaho’s average gas price — $3.78 per gallon according to GasBuddy.com — is almost 20 cents above the national average of $3.60 per gallon.

"Despite that fact, that will not affect travel one way or another," he said.

After reaching a low-water mark of below $3.30 per gallon in January, the average U.S. gas prices have hovered around $3.50 per gallon most of the summer. That price was about 20 cents lower than the same time last year.

Compare with Boise, which according to AAA on Friday averaged $3.84 a gallon — though a handful of stations charged as low as $3.64. Head west to Caldwell, and the average price only dipped about five cents. Travel north and east into more remote parts of Idaho and the cost of gas jumps: Labor Day travelers through Idaho City may pay close to $4.20 per gallon if they fill up there.

AAA estimates around 179,000 Idahoans will join the 34 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles to celebrate the extended weekend, a 4.2 percent increase from last year’s totals.

"We’re not anywhere near the glory years," Carlson said, but numbers are the best since 2009.

The National Weather Service is predicting highs in the 90s Saturday and Sunday in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, and so it will be "all hands on deck" for state troopers.

Idaho State Police Capt. Lonnie Richardson at Lewiston said administrative duties are on hold as troopers step up patrol efforts with the holiday traffic. The focus will be on safety, with an influx of motor homes and campers on the area’s roadways.

"It’s all about visibility," he said. "We’ll write our fair share of citations, but that’s not what we’re after."

Despite gas prices up near $4 per gallon, Richardson said there hasn’t really been a decline in motorists on the three weekends a year people flock out of town in droves — Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

"Gas is expensive, but those three holidays are when people take a break from life," he said.

That break allows everyone to blow off some steam after being cooped up at work and home during the year, and Richardson said police appreciate the populace getting some stress relief.

"It makes our jobs easier," he said.

Richardson said state police troopers are asking that motorists be patient, especially when passing slow-moving campers.

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