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Special Report: Highway Headache: Part 1

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013 |
Special Report: Highway Headache: Part 1 story image
WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The stretch of I-94 from Kalamazoo to Battle Creek is one of the busiest stretches of road in the entire state.  There are often big  traffic tie-ups, bad accidents and road shutdowns. It's the one road we all hate to be on.  In fact some have told us, they even fear driving on it.

So the I-Team started asking questions about future expansion of the road. For four months we investigated whether our leaders have a plan of action for I-94 expansion. But as we found in this, the politics of today are stopping the progress of tomorrow.

Part of the danger with this road is congestion. The numbers we found are astonishing. The freeway at it's busiest near Kalamazoo carries close to 10,000 trucks per day. That's close to double the normal daily truck traffic on any road in Grand Rapids and is very close to the amount of truck traffic coming out of Detroit. Up to 90,000 total vehicles per day between Kalamazoo and Battle creek make I-94 the busiest four-lane highway in the state of Michigan.

This winter there were many bad accidents causing closures and often chaos for commuters.

The congested, slimmed-down road is also causing problems for our leaders to pitch our area to companies looking to locate in West Michigan.

"We know companies have told us that that issue not being six lanes across the state is absolutely in their decision stream," Southwest Michigan First CEO Ron Kitchens said.

Some work's already been done on I-94.  The interchanges at Westnedge Avenue and at U.S. 131 are complete but so much work is left to be done.

So is there any plan to expand considering the new bridge to Canada is planned to be built? There's been talk for 20 years and there's even an I-94 committee within M-DOT but we found that committee is not looking at expansion. The focus instead is patching problems to get the most out of what's available.

Well the I-Team found the folks in Detroit aren't just thinking of patching. There are plans for a major reconstruction of I-94 through Detroit, a $1.6 billion dollar shovel-ready project. Folks on our side of the state aren't anywhere close to being shovel-ready for our bottleneck.  We found there's a reason for it. Instead of innovating and imagining, many just feel defeated before they can ever get started.

"Your chances of getting something through the federal government is tough," Sen. Mike Nofs (R) Battle Creek. I think that's where the defeatist attitude is coming from personally."

"Things are divisive so we're in a culture that doesn't lend itself to the kind of collaboration it would take," M-DOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said.

Governor Rick Snyder is trying to get some more road funding now. He's asking lawmakers to approve more than $1 billion just to fix our roads, not expand them. That extra revenue request isn't going over real well with lawmakers in both parties because nobody wants to raise taxes.

"That's where you should talk to your legislator about coming forward with a plan being involved in this process," Governor Snyder told us.

Governor Snyder's take on I-94 expansion: "If you stop and look at it without these resources, there's virtually no way there would be any consideration for that"

For a list of billion dollar projects around the country, click here.

For average daily traffic maps for Michigan, click here.
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Business News

Last Update on October 01, 2014 17:47 GMT

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. construction spending fell in August, the second decline in the past three months, with housing, non-residential and government projects all showing weakness.

The Commerce Department says construction spending dropped a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent after a 1.2 percent increase in July. The July increase followed a 1.6 percent June decline.

The weakness was apparent in all sectors. Housing construction declined 0.1 percent, reflecting a big drop in spending on remodeling. Non-residential construction fell 1.4 percent while spending on government projects dropped 0.9 percent.

In addition to the August decline, the government revised lower its estimates for activity in the previous two months. This could call into question expectations that building activity will support economic growth in the second half of the year.

ADP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. businesses continued hiring at a solid pace in September, according to a private survey. The result marks the the sixth straight month of solid gains.

Payroll processer ADP says private employers added 213,000 jobs last month, up slightly from 202,000 in August. Job gains above 200,000 are usually enough to lower the unemployment rate.

The figures suggest the government's jobs report on Friday could show a rebound in hiring. The government said employers added only 142,000 jobs in August. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report. ADP's August figure was much higher than the government's.

Economists surveyed by FactSet forecast that the government's report will show 215,000 jobs were added in September, while the unemployment rate remained 6.1 percent.

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pace of U.S. manufacturing growth slowed in September, as expectations for hiring and new orders slipped from their August levels.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index fell to 56.6 from 59 in August. Anything above 50 signals that manufacturing is growing.

The index's measure of new orders fell to 60 from a reading of 66.7, while the employment component fell to 54.6 from 58.1. The one upside is that customer inventories continue to remain low, suggesting that there will be continued demand from factories.

Manufacturers have reported growth for the past 16 months, as the sector has helped drive the recovery from the Great Recession.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- Demand for pickup trucks and SUVs helped keep U.S. auto sales strong in September following a blistering August.

General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group led the industry with 19 percent sales increases over last September.

While August's sales were fueled by incentives on midsize cars, September saw good deals on trucks.

GM says sales of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup jumped 54 percent and the GMC Sierra pickup rose 25 percent.

Chrysler had best September since 2005, with sales of Ram pickups rising 30 percent and Jeep brands up 47 percent.

But Ford's U.S. sales dipped 3 percent as the company cut back on truck discounts in anticipation of a new F-150 later this year.

Toyota sales were up 2 percent, with its RAV4 SUV seeing double-digit gains. Honda sales increased 12 percent on the strength of the CR-V SUV and the Honda Fit subcompact.

Nissan sales rose 18.5 percent, with its newly revamped Rogue crossover up 52 percent.

Volkswagen fell 18.6 percent overall, but sales of its new Golf were up 93 percent.

GM-ROAD AHEAD

MILFORD, Mich. (AP) -- General Motors CEO Mary Barra told investors Wednesday that GM will rely on new models and a big push to sell more cars in China to boost profits in coming years, as the company tries to shift the spotlight from a mishandled recall of older small cars.

Barra needed to reassure investors that GM has a strong plan going forward. The stock has dropped about 18 percent this year. It rose 2.6 percent in afternoon trading.

GM recalled 2.6 million small cars worldwide earlier this year to fix faulty ignition switches that are now blamed for at least 23 deaths nationwide. Barra said suppliers have made enough parts to fix all of the switches, but only 1.1 million small cars have had the repairs so far.

GM has admitted knowing about the problem for a decade, yet it didn't recall the cars until this February. The switches can cause the engine to stall, deactivating the cars' air bags.

Barra said GM is staying with an estimate of $400 million to $600 million to compensate ignition switch crash victims. The company has hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to pay victims. He made his first payments last week.

CANADA-FORD AUTO JOBS

OAKVILLE, Ontario (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. of Canada says it is adding 1,000 jobs at its plant in Oakville, Ontario, by the end of this year to build the 2015 Ford Edge crossover SUV for the global market.

The automaker said Wednesday it also expects to increase spending on Canadian-made auto parts by $200 million a year.

The 1,000 new jobs and 300 added last year will bring total employment at the plant to more than 4,000 by the end of 2014. Ford also operates an engine plant in Windsor, Ontario and employs a total of about 6,000 in Canada.

A recent Scotiabank report on the global auto industry says that increased vehicle sales in the U.S. as well as a depreciation of the Canadian dollar had benefited the Canadian auto parts sector.

GENERAL MILLS-JOB CUTS

NEW YORK (AP) -- General Mills plans to cut 700 to 800 jobs, the second time it's trimmed its work force in a month, as the food company wrestles with a shift by U.S. consumers away from boxed or frozen meals.

The Minneapolis company expects about $135 million to $160 million in restructuring charges. It foresees annual cost savings of approximately $125 million to $150 million, starting in fiscal 2016.

General Mills Inc. anticipates the current restructuring to be completed by fiscal 2015's end.

The company has said it's begun a formal review of its North American manufacturing and distribution network, along with a pair of announcements in recent months about cost-cutting initiatives.

AMAZON-KANSAS

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Amazon.com plans to close a distribution center in southeast Kansas in February, but it isn't clear how many employees the move will affect.

Coffeyville Chamber of Commerce executive director Stacia Meek said Wednesday that Amazon informed her of the closure in an email Tuesday evening.

The Seattle-based online retailer did not immediately return email and phone messages seeking comment.

Meek says Amazon told her the closure is part of a move to have its distribution centers closer to the bulk of its customers.

Coffeyville is a rural town about 70 miles north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Amazon is one of the area's largest employers, though its workforce fluctuates widely.

The Parsons Sun first reported the closure plans and noted the company recently celebrated its 15th year anniversary in Coffeyville.

COCA-COLA-PAY PLAN

NEW YORK (AP) -- Coca-Cola is revising its pay plan for executives after shareholders including Warren Buffett expressed disapproval and called it excessive.

The world's largest beverage maker says its long-term incentive program will now distribute the company's shares to a smaller group of executives, while the rest will be rewarded with cash instead. That will mean the total shares authorized to be awarded under the plan will last longer.

The Atlanta-based company also said it would increase transparency about its equity awards and formalize its practice of share repurchases to keep stockholders' stakes from being diluted.

Coca-Cola's pay plan had come under scrutiny after Wintergreen Advisers took issue with it earlier this year, calling it a "raw deal" for shareholders. Buffett also said he discussed his concerns with Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent.

UNITED STATES-BRAZIL TRADE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States and Brazil have resolved a decade-long trade battle over subsidies Washington provided to U.S. cotton growers.

The agreement resolves a bitter trade fight that had strained relations between the two countries since 2002, when Brazil brought a case against the United States charging that U.S. cotton subsidies were a violation of global trade rules. The World Trade Organization ruled in Brazil's favor and the United States had been forced to make annual $147 million payments to Brazil.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and their Brazilian counterparts signed the agreement Wednesday in Washington. Under the agreement, the United States will make a final one-time payment of $300 million and Brazil will drop the cotton case.

ZOHYDRO-NEW VERSION

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The maker of the much-debated painkiller Zohydro is seeking approval of a harder-to-abuse version of its drug which, if approved, could replace the currently marketed version of the pill by next spring.

San Diego-based Zogenix said Wednesday it submitted a Food and Drug Administration application for the new Zohydro formulation that is designed to be more difficult to snort or inject -- two common methods for abusing painkillers. Zogenix expects approval in the first quarter of 2015, which would allow the drugmaker to replace the older version of Zohydro in the second quarter.

Zohydro has been criticized by health advocates, politicians and law enforcement officials since it became the first single-ingredient hydrocodone drug ever approved for U.S. patients last fall.

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