Pumped up: Drivers happy to find lower gasoline prices

A customer fills up his tank at a local gas station in Miami, Friday, May 27, 2011. With gas prices still topping the $4-a-gallon mark in much of the country and forcing holiday travelers to spend more on fill-ups this Memorial Day weekend, some are opting to to stay closer to home.(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

A customer fills up his tank at a local gas station in Miami, Friday, May 27, 2011. With gas prices still topping the $4-a-gallon mark in much of the country and forcing holiday travelers to spend more on fill-ups this Memorial Day weekend, some are opting to to stay closer to home.(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Motorists awakened Monday to sticker shock at the pump — the good kind.

Gas prices fell sharply over the weekend in Southwest Florida and, in some locations, the cost of regular unleaded fuel dropped to as low as $3.83 per gallon. As a result, some local motorists waited in line at the pump Monday to take advantage.

From Estero to Bonita Springs to Naples, many gas stations dropped the price per gallon by at least 5 or 6 cents, while others decreased prices by as much as 10 to 15 cents.

At the Shell Station off Interstate 75 and Immokalee Road in North Naples, pumps were occupied for most of the afternoon while other motorists waited in line for their turn.

"I didn't even notice that (prices) were down until I was driving by and looked at the board," said Naples resident Jessica Ross. "I figured why not pull in and fill up. It's worth a little bit of a wait."

That Shell station was selling gas at $4.08 a gallon Friday, and by Monday, it was down to $3.96, said crew members at Advanced Solar Pool and Spa based out of Naples.

"When you're filling up 10 trucks a day a drop like this really helps," said crew member Jon Renas. "It would be great if it would go down to $3.50 a gallon, I've heard that may happen this summer. I hope so."

Some motorists were optimistic that gas prices would continue to decrease over the summer while others were quite skeptical and expect costs to increase again around Memorial Day.

"I hope it lasts," said Bev Terry, a Bonita Springs resident, who was filling up at a 7-Eleven on U.S. 41 just south of Bonita Beach Road. "I've heard that prices are supposed to be lower this summer, but I have a feeling by Memorial Day they will be back up over $4 per gallon."

Kristy Beste of Estero, who commutes daily to Naples for work, said she spends around $100 a week for gas and didn't feel the drop over the weekend would make much of a difference for her.

"I say, hallelujah! Now, I can get gas and pack of gum," she said. "I drive five days a week to work so they're going to have to lower the price a lot more than this for it to make any difference in my bank account."

Oil prices have fallen from $110 a barrel last month to $103 a barrel Monday amid investor worries that economic growth in the U.S. and China, the world's two largest oil consumers, may slow more than previously expected.

But some local residents had their own theories.

"The price will gradually keep going down, only because it is an election year," said Dan Miller, a Punta Gorda resident. "It happens every election year."

Bradford Bateman, store manager of the Motor Mart Express on Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs, an independent franchise dealer of Chevron, also believes that election-year politics have an influence on the price of fuel.

"I always like to joke with the customers that it's political," said Bateman. "I expect prices to go up around Memorial Day and the Fourth of July because demand goes up. But by election day, I would bet that the price will be down almost a quarter per gallon."

Deanna Perez, the store manager at the Mobil 7-Eleven on U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs, echoed the statements of many corporate gas station managers Monday.

"We change the prices when corporate tells us to change the prices. What causes it? I don't know," Perez said. "All I know is that a competitor's survey is done, and our prices change."

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