- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Area motorists, smarting from price shocks at the gas pump, got a break this week when a gallon of regular unleaded dipped below the $3 mark in most places for the first time since Hurricane Katrina disrupted Gulf Coast refineries.

“It was going up too much, people were crying,” said Adame Koffi, 49, a mechanic at the Citgo at the corner of Powder Mill Road and New Hampshire Avenue in Hillandale. “But now people who come in here are happy because it’s going down, and the price is lower.”

Over Monday night the average cost of regular unleaded gas dropped to $2.91 in the Washington metro area, said John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“That price represents a 32-cent decline in the price of gas since Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “However, area consumers are still paying more for gas than their counterparts across the nation, who are paying 12 cents less on average.”

Gas prices throughout the region vary widely. A survey of stations along the Capital Beltway in Virginia, Maryland and the District showed prices anywhere from $2.75 on New York Avenue in the District to $3.09 on Route 1 in College Park.

Suburbanites who do a little searching can find gas even cheaper; Anne Arundel residents have flocked to the Wawa Food Market on the Route 50 frontage road just west of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, where the gas is $2.65. The manager at the station yesterday said the price — about 20 cents cheaper than most stations in the area — was a big enough draw that some drivers were waiting in lines two, three or four cars deep at the pump.

At the Shell station at 4670 Duke Street in Alexandria, the price of gas has gone down nine cents over the last two days to $2.99, said Mohammed Siddique, 40, the station manager.

“It’s gone down a lot, people are happy,” he said. Gas is just a penny less at Mr. Siddique’s Shell station than it is at the Mobile station next door. “This is a very competitive thing,” he said.

But despite falling prices, paying for gas still hurts, said Mark Shiloni, 59, a contractor who lives in the District.

“I’ve done a lot to save, like driving a smaller car and not taking as many trips,” he said.

The high prices have many area families and businesses pinching pennies.

“We try to carpool now, my husband and I,” said Marsha Thompson, a graduate student at Argosy University in Arlington who filled up yesterday at the Citgo station on Powder Mill Road and New Hampshire Avenue in Hillandale. “It’s just too much to fill up two cars. It takes 50 bucks to fill up my tank — it used to be $25.”

Mike Lawler of McLean, an owner of Kimberly’s Corporate Catering in Vienna, Va., uses several vans in his business. The 46-year-old said the high prices hurt his company.

“A lot of other companies are starting to charge a [gas] surcharge, and I really don’t want to do that,” he said at a Sunoco station on Chain Bridge Road in Tysons Corner. “I may have to increase my prices.”

High prices in Washington are even affecting families overseas.

Ali Mamy, a security guard who lives in Capitol Heights, said he cannot afford to send as much money home to his children in Gambia and Sierra Leone.

“My kids’ allowance has to be cut back a little bit,” said Mr. Mamy, 48, as he filled up his tank at the Lowest Price station on New York Avenue in Northeast. “This is where I make the money so I have to keep on going.”

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