CHICAGO — Local motorists are in for a treat this Independence Day when they fill up their gas tank to head out of town.
"Gas prices have dropped pretty substantially over the last few weeks — as much as 40 to 50 cents a gallon in some areas," said AAA spokesperson Beth Mosher. "The refinery issues that pushed prices higher this spring have been resolved. That's what [is] causing these prices to drop."
Production issues at area oil refineries combined with the switchover to the more expensive but more eco-friendly summer gas blend pushed Chicago's gas prices to the highest in the nation this spring. But prices have moderated since then.
In the city, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is $4.14, according to the Fuel Gauge Report. ChicagoGasPrices.com shows an average price of $3.95 per gallon for the greater Chicago area.
AAA estimates about 2 million Illinois residents will be traveling by car over the holiday, a slight increase over last year. Mosher said drivers will see substantially lower gas prices once they leave Illinois.
The average price per gallon in Indiana is $3.38. It's $3.44 per gallon in Michigan, $3.46 in Wisconsin and $3.27 per gallon in Missouri.
"The moment they cross any border they will see significantly lower prices," said Mosher. "The City of Chicago has not [seen] those really significant drops other places have seen."
Based on historical trends, Mosher said gas prices will continue to drop for the rest of the summer.
"Normally, we've seen our peak in prices by this time of year," she said. "We should see prices continue to drop through the summer."
Additionally, AAA warns that July 3 will be the busiest departure day of the holiday with an estimated 32 percent of travelers leaving on Wednesday, while most people (38 percent) plan on returning to the city on Sunday. Motorists should expect heavy traffic congestion during peak hours on both days.
Holiday travelers should also be extra careful driving over the holiday weekend as Illinois law enforcement will be out in full force. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, State Police and local law enforcement will collectively conduct more than 100 roadside safety checks, 400 safety belt enforcement zone checks and 500 saturation patrols to identify and arrest drunken drivers.
IDOT considers Independence Day one of the year's deadliest holidays due to the high number of alcohol-induced fatal crashes.