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AAA : One million fewer people hitting the road this 4th of July weekend

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - According to AAA, one million fewer Americans will hit the roadways during this year's July 4th weekend, than last year.

AAA Utica spokesperson Ed Welsh says that in 2010, 40 million Americans went on what AAA calls a 'July 4th Holiday', which he says means heading more than 50 miles from home.

Welsh says that this year, only 39 million Americans are projected to take that so-called holiday. He says there are two main reasons for this.

"They had months and months and months of very high gas prices, which has really put a hamper on their pocket books," Welsh said. "Number two, we're seeing that the price of a lot of other things have gone up. We're estimating that a trip this year will cost you 25 percent more than it did last year. That's due to food and lodging, as well as the price of gas."

Welsh says that back on May 12, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the Utica/Rome area was $4.09. Today, it's $3.78, a 31 cent drop.

Pat Wagstaff pumps gas at the full service North Utica Clifford Fuel station.

Wagstaff says people have been a little bit more excited to get gas these past few weeks with the lower prices.

"They say everyday they love how they're coming down with the holiday coming up, which is shocking," Welsh said.

Normally over May and June, leading up to the 4th of July weekend, gas prices rise. That is not this year, and they just dropped the past week after President Obama decided to use 30 million gallons of oil from our nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserves to help offset the loss of oil from Libya.

Welsh says this is only the third time in history the U.S. has dipped into the Reserves.

"We did it in 1991 for the Gulf War, about 17 million barrels," Welsh said. "We didn't want military usage of oil to effect prices. I think when you go into war that's a good reason. The second reason was Katrina, obviously, when all of the refineries shut down in the gulf coast, people were very nervous about the price of oil."

Tony Rosati of Deerfield was filling up Friday morning at Clifford Fuel in North Utica, and says he doesn't think it's scary to dip into the Reserves when we really aren't in an emergency situation.

"If there was some kind of emergency, I think they can find ways to get more oil if they need it," Rosati said. "We have friends in other countries."

Some Central New Yorkers aren't letting gas prices stop them from traveling this holiday weekend. Renee Johnson of Utica was cleaning her SUV at Clifford Fuel on Friday, she is heading to Myrtle Beach. She says she usually stays home during the 4th of July weekend, but this year decided on a change.

Meanwhile, others here in our area say even if gas prices were lower, they'd still stay home, like Kevin Comer of Clinton.

"Got a lot of things to do at the house," Comer said. "Might take the kids to the beach. Sylvan, Delta, one of them two."

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