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Gas prices dip in time for holiday travel
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Gasoline prices have plummeted in the past week, just in time for Memorial Day travel, but drivers are still paying far more for gasoline now than they did a year ago.

“It’s great to see prices coming down relatively quickly, but prices are still more than a dollar higher than a year ago,” said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring.

Average gas prices have fallen more than two pennies a day, tumbling 17 cents per gallon over the past week alone, according to Gasoline prices in the Modesto metropolitan region, which includes Turlock, had fallen to an average of $3.99 per gallon by Tuesday, down from a $4.16 per gallon average last Tuesday.

A gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline could be found as cheap as $3.84 per gallon in Turlock on Tuesday, just 3 cents more than the national average cost of $3.81 per gallon. The local price is also below California’s $4.07 per gallon statewide average.

Despite the recent decline, driven by a falling price for crude oil, prices at the pump have surged year-over-year. A gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline sold for $2.94 on May 24, 2010.

Those higher prices are discouraging some Memorial Day travel, projected to remain flat compared to 2010.

“Nationally, Memorial Day travel is expected to stay at about the same level as last year – most likely a result of the gas price hikes this spring,” Spring said.

AAA projects that 4.2 million Californians will travel 50 or more miles this Memorial Day weekend – a 0.2 percent increase from 2010. About 3.5 million of those are expected to travel by car, down 0.4 percent year-over-year.

A further 460,000 Californians will travel by air, up 11.4 percent from 2010, and 188,000 will travel by rail, bus, and watercraft. An average West Coast family of four will spend $970 over the weekend on a 1,000 mile road trip, AAA said.

Despite the brief price respite at the pumps, drivers can expect to see prices begin to inch back up throughout the summer, AAA Northern California spokesperson Matt Skryja said.

“This holiday is typically considered the start of the summer driving season, when prices are traditionally higher,” Skryja said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.