ST. LOUIS — Just in time for the busiest travel week of the year, gasoline prices are reaching new lows in Missouri and around the country.
In fact, AAA Auto Club reports that Missouri’s $1.58 average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is the lowest in the nation. Among neighboring states, Kansas on Tuesday was at $1.70, Iowa at $1.78, Illinois at $1.88 and Arkansas at $1.73.
Around Missouri, a gallon of regular unleaded was selling for $1.48 in Kansas City, $1.51 in St. Joseph, $1.53 in St. Louis, $1.56 in Springfield and $1.60 in Columbia.
AAA’s Mike Right expects gasoline prices to bottom out soon, but he doesn’t expect a sharp rise.
“Sooner or later the cutback in production by OPEC and other oil-producing regions as well as cutbacks in refinery production is going to have the desired impact for the folks who own and produce the oil, and that is going to get the price north of where it is now,” Right said. “But I don’t think we’re likely to see $4 or even $3 a gallon anytime in the immediate future.”
Nationally, a gallon of regular unleaded was averaging $1.89, down 81 cents from a month ago. Diesel fuel was selling for $2.81, down 67 cents from last month.
The $1.58 price in Missouri was down 78 cents from last month and down $2.37 from the peak of $3.95 on July 16. Diesel fuel in Missouri peaked at an average of $4.69 on July 17. On Tuesday, it was selling for $2.55.
Right said gasoline prices have dropped as the price of crude oil has declined by about two-thirds. Once at more than $150 a barrel, crude oil was at $50.63 on Tuesday.
Missouri also benefits for several other reasons.
“It’s a combination of low taxes and relatively close proximity to supply,” Right said. “We have access to several producing regions, and we enjoy pretty competitive markets among wholesalers and retailers.”
Thanksgiving week is also busy for air and rail travel. Lambert Airport in St. Louis expects its busiest days to be Sunday and Monday as people return home.
“Everyone has scattered departures but everyone has that hard deadline date to get back, which is Monday for most people,” Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea said.
Air travel overall is expected to be down from last year because of the sour economy, but Lea said passengers should expect near-capacity planes because airlines have cut back on the number of flights. And Lea notes that even if crowds at the airport might not be as large as past Thanksgiving weeks, they’ll still be much bigger than normal.
“People need to be prepared and understand there are going to be some lines,” he said.
Amtrak expects Wednesday to be the busiest day of the year for rail travelers, with 65 percent more passengers than a typical Wednesday, spokesman Marc Magliari said. Sunday will be nearly as busy, he said.
Amtrak officials urge passengers to arrive at the station at least 45 minutes early if tickets need to be picked up. They should carry a photo identification, make sure luggage is tagged with a name and address, and understand the limit of two carryon bags per person.