Colorado Springs-area gas prices have started to tick upward after weeks of steady declines tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But don't worry; even with the recent increases, pump prices should remain far below last year's levels heading into the summer. 

By early Monday afternoon, Springs-area gas prices averaged $1.684 for a gallon of unleaded regular, up 5.8 cents from a week ago, according to GasBuddy.com, the online service that tracks fuel prices nationwide. Prices were 2.8 cents a gallon lower than a month ago and down almost $1.15 from the same time last year, based on GasBuddy's check of 246 local outlets. 

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Prices averaged $1.757 a gallon statewide and $1.875 nationally, according to GasBuddy. 

Gas prices started dropping in mid-February as global concerns ramped up about the spreading coronavirus. By early March, local prices had fallen to less than $2 a gallon on average. They continued to drop through April and hit a low of $1.616 on May 6, GasBuddy figures show.

But as Colorado and other states have relaxed stay-at-home orders that were designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus, motorists have begun to drive to jobs, stores and recreational areas, and the demand for gas and oil has rebounded, said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy's head of petroleum analysis.

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As a result, prices have started to increase, he said. 

"It's a sign of an economy that's starting to recover," DeHaan said. "Demand is going up. People are getting out a little more."

Typically, gasoline prices hit their highest mark around Memorial Day, just after refineries have switched over to more expensive summer blends, DeHaan said.

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This summer, however, gas prices are just now starting to rise as the Memorial Day weekend approaches, and they will continue to climb as the economy improves, DeHaan said. Even so, expect prices for a good portion of the summer to remain at their lowest levels in years, he said.

"Gas prices and the strength of the increase will be contingent on the strength of the increase in the overall (economic) situation," DeHaan said. "As the economy continues or reopens in states, as things improve, gas prices will likely rise because people are filling their tanks more often."

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