Fuel prices drop as drivers hit the brakes | SierraSun.com

Fuel prices drop as drivers hit the brakes

After months of cringing over record high gas prices, motorists refueling in the Truckee-Tahoe area are letting out a sigh of relief thanks to more than seven weeks of plummeting prices at the pump.

“It was getting pretty scary when it hit $4.69 a gallon,” said Skogen Sprang, a driver for North Tahoe’s Checker Taxi. “It’s definitely good to see it going down a bit.”

The nearly half-buck drop in prices is putting extra change back in Sprang’s pocket, who said prior to the decline he had been absorbing the skyrocketing fuel costs as rates for taxi services stayed the same.

The California statewide average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is down 41 cents from last month, said Matt Skryja, a spokesman for AAA, in a written statement.

While drivers in the Truckee-Tahoe region are still shelling out top dollar to fill their tanks at an average $4.45 per gallon of unleaded, prices have dropped 30 to 40 cents over the past seven weeks, said Karen Wencke, assistant manager of the Shell station in Tahoe City.

Prices are expected to rise again over the Labor Day holiday, but as drivers ditch their wheels for public transit, bicycles or transportation by foot, the pump price decline may continue to be a trend, Skryja said.

“Prices continue to fall thanks to consumers conserving fuel and the strengthening U.S. dollar,” Skryja said.

The statewide curtailment in driving is being echoed locally as motorists hit the brakes and look for alternative modes of transportation ” good news for the environment, but bad news for gas station revenue.

“Sales are way down compared to last summer,” said Joel Williams, owner of Donner Gate Chevron off Interstate 80 in Truckee. “Oil companies have started coming down with prices, but it takes time for that to go through so our figures haven’t gone up much from the decrease yet.”

Wencke said she agrees sales are down, particularly revenue generated from local residents.

“I’m especially seeing a lot of locals riding bikes this summer,” Wencke said. “Once the adjustment hits a plateau, I think we’ll see more locals driving again.”

The cutback in driving patterns may help consumer pocketbooks, but the decline is taking its toll on the U.S. Department of Transportation, which said Wednesday it may need to look for new funding to support roadway construction.

Miles traveled by California drivers are down an estimated 28.7 billion or 3.7 percent from this time last year, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation press release.

“We can’t afford to continue pinning our transportation network’s future to the gas tax,” said Mary E. Peters, transportation secretary. “Advances in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges and transit systems.”

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