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Consumers win 2-station gas war

Gasoline prices in the metro area are falling - but not this low.

Gasoline prices in the metro area are falling - but not this low.

Gilbert Hunt could hardly believe his eyes yesterday morning when he rounded the curve on U.S. 1, just south of the Conowingo Dam, and saw the $1.339-a-gallon gas signs at the Royal Farms store near the Harford County town of Dublin.

The Wilmington, Del., construction worker had detoured from Interstate 95 to avoid a traffic jam. "This is great. That accident saved me nearly $10," he said after filling the tank of his Ford Expedition.

Across the street, Andrew Taylor of Bel Air filled his Chevy pickup for exactly the same price at the Wawa convenience store.

"It's an old-fashioned gasoline price war," Taylor said. "I love it."

The price war, he said, began Thursday when the Wawa store opened.

"Royal Farm would lower their price and Wawa would follow. It was fun to watch. Friday evening they were lowering their prices just about every hour."

"We are just trying to be competitive," said Mike Davis, manager of the Wawa store.

John Kemp, executive vice president of Royal Farms, declined to comment.

Over the weekend, motorists sometimes waited in line to enter the 12-pump stations.

Taylor brought along three five-gallon containers to fill with gas for his riding mower. "This is the best price I've seen in a long time," he said.

Neither company would say how low they are prepared to go.

Gas prices haven't been that low in Maryland since January 2000, said Myra Wieman, public affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Wieman said the $1.34 at the Dublin stations could be the lowest price in the state.

"I've heard that an off-brand station in Salisbury is selling gas for $1.32," she said, "but I can't confirm that."

According to its survey released Monday, AAA reported the average price of self-serve regular gasoline at stations in the Baltimore metropolitan area was $1.65 a gallon.

That was down from $1.70 a gallon last month.

"Prices vary greatly [in Maryland]," Wieman said. "The average price in Hagerstown is $1.53 a gallon, and it's hard to find anything under $1.70 in Montgomery, Prince George's and Charles counties."

Nationwide, gas prices have dropped 9.5 cents in the past two weeks, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations.

Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the survey, said this week that the national average for regular unleaded gasoline was $1.59 a gallon, $1.69 for midgrade and $1.78 for premium.

She attributed the declining prices to rising gasoline supplies and refining capacity.