Gas pricing war causes traffic jam in Muncie

Cars lined up bumper to bumper, horns blaring, as bargain hunting drivers waited their turn to take advantage of lower gas prices in Muncie on Wednesday morning.

The ruckus was caused by the grand opening of a new Phillips 66 filling station on the corner of Wheeling and Centennial avenues.

The Phillips 66 station, located directly across from the BP station east of the intersection, opened at 8 a.m. on Wednesday with unleaded gasoline priced at $3.19 per gallon. The BP station then dropped its original price to $3.09.

A pricing battle then ensued as both stations continued lowering prices with the BP station eventually dropping as low as $1.99 a gallon. The Phillips 66 station did not follow suit and the BP then raised its prices back up. The filling stations had been fighting back and forth at 10-cent increments before settling on a price of $2.19 a gallon.

While the prices fluctuated, drivers flocked to the stations causing lines of cars that backed up traffic at the intersection. Stanley Beenford, of Muncie, had been waiting in line to fill his tank for nearly 40 minutes.

"Waiting 35 or 40 minutes for $2.19 ain't bad," Beenford said. "It needs to stay at $2.19. I'd have more gas in my car and I could take a trip."

Lines of cars starting at the station entrances stretched several blocks in all directions. One line began at the intersection and ran south on Wheeling Avenue and past Riverside Avenue. Traffic became so heavy that the Muncie Police Department sent two squad cars to help direct it, and consumers at the stations helped each other maneuver in and out of pumping areas.

"We're all excited," said patron Brooke Hughes of Muncie. "I'd fill up twice if I could. I hope everyone can have this opportunity."

Prices aren't likely to stay so low. Workers from both stations noted that lower prices often mean a lower profit for business owners. Parminder Singh, the son of Phillips 66 owner Balwinder Singh, said it's a risk for stations to have prices that are so low.

"We're getting a lot of customers, but getting the gas [from distributors] is very expensive too," he said. "We're at a fixed price [with the distributor], and we're decreasing from that with our lower prices."

Sunny Singh, manager of the BP station, also noted the problems that come from lower prices.

"Nobody likes to compete like this," he said. "We're losing almost a dollar per gallon right now, but we can't lose customers to another station."

Prices leveled out by the afternoon. At 2 p.m., BP had raised their price to its original $3.19 a gallon.


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