A look at Lawrence’s high gas prices and an update on plans for a Casey’s store

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

I’m not exactly sure where, but somewhere along Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence there is a magic gas portal. You pass through it heading east, and gas becomes a lot cheaper. Heading west it becomes a lot more expensive.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, but I’ll do so again because gasoline prices seem to be top of mind for many of you. For whatever reason, we are in a time period where gas in Eudora is selling for 16 cents a gallon cheaper than gasoline at stations just six miles down the road in Lawrence. On Friday and for most of the week, gasoline at the two stations in Eudora has been priced at $2.60 a gallon. In most of Lawrence, it is $2.76 a gallon.

One of the stations in Eudora is a Kwik Shop, which also operates in Lawrence. Despite the same ownership and being essentially next door to each other, even the Kwik Shop prices in Lawrence are still about 6 percent higher than the Kwik Shop prices in Eudora.

That is interesting, but perhaps more interesting is the other station that exists in Eudora. It is a Casey’s General Store. Lawrence doesn’t yet have a Casey’s General Store. I can tell you that gas prices in Eudora are at $2.60 a gallon because Casey’s set that price, and Kwik Shop then matched it a few days later.

Retail gasoline prices are all about the free market, and particularly how aggressive any one retailer wants to be to attract business. As we’ve reported, plans are in the works for Lawrence to get its first Casey’s General Store. It will be interesting to watch whether Casey’s entry into the Lawrence market puts downward pressure on gasoline prices in Lawrence. But honestly, I’m just guessing here. What I know with more certainty is that Casey’s breakfast pizza is going to put outward pressure on my belt.

Before any of that happens, though, Casey’s must first get into the Lawrence market. As I’ve reported, that is taking longer than expected. Casey’s filed plans in September to build a gas station/convenience store at 1703 W. Sixth St., which is the site of the College Motel and Action Automotive just to the west of the motel. I reported in March that the Casey’s plans were stalled but still alive. The city and the company were trying to work through access issues onto Sixth Street.

I don’t have a detailed update, but there definitely are signs that the project is still moving forward. Casey’s recently filed a revised site plan. It now calls for a traffic signal at Sixth and Wisconsin streets, and a right turn lane off Sixth Street leading into the Casey’s development. In addition, the plan calls for a new parking lot on the very back portion of the old motel property. It looks like that lot will be used to store vehicles for nearby Academy Cars. I’m guessing the addition of the parking lot is helping to pay for the traffic signal and other access issues that the project is being required to address.

Other details of the project look to be similar to what was previously filed. The Casey’s store will be about 4,800 square feet, and there will be 10 gasoline pumps with a total of 20 fueling stations.

So the project is one to still keep an eye on. Keeping an eye on gas prices also will be worthwhile. Lawrence continues to have some of the highest gas prices in the state. According to the AAA gas report, the average price in Lawrence on Friday was $2.76 per gallon. Here’s a look at the other averages across the state:

• Statewide: $2.66 per gallon

• Kansas City, Kan.: $2.72 per gallon

• Manhattan: $2.70 per gallon

• Topeka: $2.63 per gallon

• Wichita: $2.61 per gallon.

And while this next part isn’t too scientific, it is Friday so we’re allowed to have fun with numbers. I looked at Census data to get an estimate for how many vehicles are in Lawrence. Households in Lawrence own at least 58,000 vehicles.

If each vehicle were to use 15 gallons of gas each week, at current prices that would be $124.8 million in gasoline purchases for a year. If Lawrence gas prices were equal to the state average, those same purchases would be $120.3 million. Under that very unrealistic scenario, Lawrence motorists would save $4.5 million on gasoline purchases.

The scenario is far from scientific because I don’t know that 15 gallons of gasoline a week is a good estimate, and gas prices fluctuate a lot during the year. But the exercise does give you some idea of how much of an impact Lawrence’s consistently higher gas prices has on the broader economy.

I think it is safe to say that if Lawrence gasoline prices were closer to the statewide average, there would be millions of new dollars that could be spent on other things in the Lawrence economy.

My guess is on breakfast pizza.

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