Gasoline prices are at their highest points of 2016, yet motorists are still paying less than they were a year ago – and on average paying the lowest prices in years for the start of the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

“I’m doing a trip this weekend,” said Barberton resident Susie Smith as she gassed up Thursday at a BP station on East Market Street in Akron.

She was paying more than $2.50 a gallon but said the cost to fill up was not going to deter her from driving.

Still, Smith said, “I wish I had gotten it when it was [cheaper].”

The average price in Akron for a gallon of regular gasoline on Friday was $2.49, according to AAA’s daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s significantly higher than the $2.10 per gallon average in the Akron area a month ago but still cheaper than the $2.67 a gallon in late May 2015.

Unfortunately for local motorists, Akron-area regular gasoline now is selling on average for more than the national average of $2.32 a gallon. (The national average a year ago was $2.74 a gallon.)

The web site gasbuddy.com, which depends on motorists to cite prices they find, on Friday reported prices in the greater Akron area ranged from a low of $2.28 per gallon in Canton to a high of $2.62 in Stow and Cuyahoga Falls. Overall, local prices on Friday were trending downward, the site said.

Northeast Ohio prices are higher than usual right now in part because a Toledo-area BP refinery shut down for maintenance and also in part because a massive forest fire shut down Canadian oil sands production that feeds into local refineries, said Kevin Thomas, vice president of the Akron offices of AAA.

“This is obviously the kickoff weekend” for summer travel, Thomas said.

AAA estimates nationally that there will be a 2 percent increase in travel this weekend compared to a year ago. Some 38 million people will be going 50 miles or more; 89 percent of the travellers will drive.

“We’re going to pay more than we’re accustomed to this year,” Thomas said.

Even so, AAA this week said drivers will be paying the lowest prices for gasoline since 2005 for the long holiday weekend. The average price for a gallon of regular on May 30, 2005, was $2.05 – or $2.52 in 2016 dollars – according to federal data. On May 29, 2006, the price jumped to $2.78 a gallon, or $3.41 in 2016 dollars.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Friday had a slightly different take. The federal agency said national retail gasoline prices are the lowest since 2009 ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. The May 25, 2009, average price was $2.41 a gallon, or $2.69 in 2016 dollars.

The lower gasoline prices reflect lower crude oil prices, the federal agency said in a press release.

“Average retail gasoline prices for all regions of the country are below their year-ago values,” the EIA said.

For the full summer driving season through September, EIA has said, in its latest monthly report,it expects motorists nationally will pay an average of $2.21 for a gallon of regular, 42 cents per gallon less than a year ago. The federal agency recently raised its 2016 summer forecast by 17 cents per gallon from its April monthly report.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ