HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Three gas stations along Route 206 less than two miles apart proclaim the good news on their electronic stanchion signs - gasoline prices in New Jersey have dipped below $2 per gallon for the first time since November, 2016, when the state's 23-cent per gallon Transportation Trust Fund tax went into effect.

The good news can be seen in nearby towns and throughout New Jersey, on state highways and at convenience stores and downtown main streets, wherever there is a gas station.

Prices are expected to drop even further, perhaps as low as $1.75 per gallon by the end of April, according to AAA though fewer motorists than normal will be enjoying those savings.

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Cars are parked curbside and in driveways because daily routines have been shut down by government-ordered school closures and shuttered workplaces combined with stay-at-home edicts to minimize one-on-one contact and crowd sizes. 

Two factors are driving down prices - oversupply caused by fewer people driving in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and an ongoing price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which has seen the price for a barrel of oil drop as low as $20.

"The decline is due to COVID-19’s chilling effect on the global economy and the crude oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Crude has plummeted to $20/bbl – a closing price not seen since 2002. For the last 52 weeks, crude oil (West Texas Intermediate) has averaged $56/bbl with the national pump price average at $2.63," said Jeanette Casselano, a spokesperson for AAA.

“AAA expects gas prices to keep dropping as cheap crude combines with the realities of people staying home and less demand for gas,” she added. “Today, motorists can find gas for $1.99 or less at 68% of gas stations in the country.”

State averages are less than $3/gallon except in Hawaii ($3.36) and California ($3.05). Today, twenty-nine states have regular gas price averages under $2, with Oklahoma ($1.55) having the cheapest in the country, according to Casselano.

For state, metro and county gas prices, visit Gasprices.AAA.com.

While demand is diminishing, COVID-19 has not impacted the U.S. gasoline supply, according to Casselano. The U.S. has an unusual amount of winter-blend gasoline still available for this time of year which prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to extend the sale of winter-blend past the May 1 deadline to May 20. The EPA said they would continue to monitor and may extend the waiver again.

“The EPA’s extension of the winter-blend gasoline waiver will contribute to sustained lower prices, especially as U.S. gasoline demand readings look more like winter-driving season than spring,” added Casselano.

AAA forecasts that until crude oil prices and gasoline demand increase, cheaper gas prices are here for the foreseeable future.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill in mid-October, 2016, which raised New Jersey's gasoline tax by 23 cents per gallon to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for roadway and infrastructure improvements.

Over an eight-year period, the tax is designed to pump $16 billion in to the TTF, which is matched by federal funds. 

Before the bill was signed, New Jersey's gasoline tax of 14.5-cents per gallon was the second-lowest in the nation.

Funds from the TTF have been invested in the nearly-completed 4.5-mile Route 206 Hillsborough Bypass project, scheduled to open in late 2020.