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More drivers hitting the road

| August 5, 2020 1:00 AM

Travel volumes are increasing in the Idaho backcountry due to COVID-19 restrictions

COEUR d’ALENE — Temperatures are climbing across the Gem State, and gas prices are rising right along with them.

According to AAA, tourism is increasing in Idaho and other Western states as travelers look to the Great Outdoors for fun and adventure amid COVID-19 travel restrictions, resulting in busy backroads, higher demand for fuel, and slight upward pressure on gas prices. Even so, drivers are still saving big at the pump over last year.

“Idaho’s mountains, lakes and rivers are an attractive destination every summer, but with the limitations imposed during the pandemic, they’re especially popular this year,” says AAA Idaho Public and Government Affairs Director Matthew Conde. “With plenty of opportunities to maintain social distancing, outdoor recreation is a great option for Idahoans and visitors to our state.”

Gas prices average about $2.30 for a gallon of unleaded in Coeur d’Alene and higher in surrounding area. Boise is running about $2.50 for a gallon of unleaded, Lewiston is $2.45 and Pocatello is $2.36.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, record numbers of travelers are using Idaho’s backroads in recent weeks, including Idaho Highways 21 and 55. Anecdotally, AAA has learned that campgrounds are also very busy, and even walk-in camping sites are getting hard to find.

Across the country, fuel demand reached 8.8 million barrels per day last week, about three percent higher than the previous week, but eight percent less than last year. Current demand is at its highest level since the pandemic started.

Today, the average price of regular fuel in Idaho is $2.42, which is seven cents more than a month ago, but 48 cents less than a year ago. Meanwhile, the national average has held steady at $2.18, the same as a month ago and 53 cents less than a year ago.

“With the states in various stages of reopening, pump prices are moving in places that are further along in the process or that have abundant recreational opportunities, including Idaho, Utah, and Florida,” Conde said. “As long as people in other areas face tighter restrictions, the natural tendency will be to travel to destinations with fewer limitations.”

Meanwhile, crude oil prices continue to hold steady near $40 per barrel, about 15 dollars cheaper than a year ago. As long as the market continues to believe that there is a glut of crude oil in the market, oil prices will be held in check for the foreseeable future. Crude oil prices are responsible for roughly 50 percent of the cost of finished gasoline.