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Gas up before Thanksgiving rather than after: expert

Thanksgiving Day gas prices are expected to dip to their lowest levels in Illinois since 2008, but motorists might want to hit the pump before they enjoy their turkey spread rather than after it, one expert advised Tuesday.

News that Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border put upward pressure on crude oil Tuesday, said Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with gasbuddy.com. Crude oil prices jumped by over a dollar a barrel, and wholesale gas prices headed upward even more, he said.

In the six-county Chicago area, the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $2.115 a gallon early Tuesday evening, or up 8 cents from Monday. That’s still 17.8 cents less than last week’s average and a whopping 92.4 cents less than last year’s average $3.039 a gallon, gasbuddy.com reported.

Despite the slight upward pressure, even some Chicago stations were offering regular gas at less than $2 a gallon Tuesday, the gasbuddy.com website reported.

“Gas prices are still cheaper than a week ago,” DeHaan said. “But you probably could save yourself a few pennies a gallon by gassing up sooner rather than later.”

Illinois has been enjoying the second-largest monthly decline in gas prices among all the states, down 35 cents a gallon, according to AAA.

Retail averages had been falling for 17 consecutive days through Monday, AAA reported. Midwest refinery production reached its highest levels in nearly two months, helping gas prices recover in the region, AAA said.

With more disposable income in their pockets than years past, some 2.2 million travelers are expected to hit Illinois roads over the Thanksgiving holiday, from Wednesday to Sunday, said AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher. That’s the highest number of drivers this time of year since 2008, she said.

The Illinois Tollway was expecting 8.5 million vehicles on its system between Wednesday and Monday, a 3 percent increase from this time last year, officials there said.

Most tollway construction activity will be restricted over the weekend to accommodate them, although some lane closures will be in effect on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway between the Elgin Toll Plaza and Illinois 53 Friday through Sunday, tollway officials said.

Work zone speed limits are in effect in all construction zones, whether or not workers are present.

Using a 12-day Thanksgiving travel period, the industry trade organization Airlines for America predicted that U.S. airlines travel will hit its highest numbers since the Great Recession.

Across the city’s major airports, increased air travel also was expected, although the Chicago Department of Aviation offered only one-year comparisons.

Some 1.5 million passengers were predicted through O’Hare International Airport over an eight-day Thanksgiving period, Tuesday through Dec. 1, city aviation officials said. That’s up six percent from last year, they said.

Midway Airport travelers during the same period were expected to hit nearly 560,000 — up 4 percent from last year.