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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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Last Update on December 22, 2014 08:26 GMT

ECONOMY-THE WEEK AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- This is a shortened trading week with the stock and bond markets closed on Christmas Day.

However, there are some interesting government economic reports being released ahead of the holiday.

Today, the National Association of Realtors will report on how many existing homes were sold in November.

On Tuesday, the government will report on last month's new home sales, as well as November's durable goods numbers and personal income and spending for November. It will also report the third-quarter gross domestic product

This week, the government will be releasing last week's jobless claims number a day early, on Christmas Eve. Also on Wednesday, Freddie Mac will report this week's mortgage rates.

SKOREA-ECONOMY

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea has lowered its growth forecast for next weak citing the persistently weak sentiment among consumers and businesses.

The finance ministry said Monday that Asia's fourth-largest economy will expand 3.8 percent in 2015. Six months ago, it forecast 4.0 percent growth.

The downward revision, representing some improvement from 3.4 percent growth this year, shows the government's challenge in encouraging consumers to spend more and businesses to boost investment despite its expansionary policies and the central bank's two rate cuts this year.

Director-General Lee Chanwoo said the recovery in consumer spending and capital expenditure remains weaker than expected in the last two months.

Lee said consumers and businesses still have great uncertainties about next year and the last quarter's improvement in the economy stemmed mostly from the government policies.

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) -- The Washington state-based grocery chain Haggen Inc. plans to buy 146 Albertsons and Safeway stores in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona.

The Bellingham Herald reports the sales are required under the federal review of Safeway's sale to an investment group that owns Albertsons.

If Haggen's plans announced Friday get Federal Trade Commission approval, the Bellingham-based company would expand from 18 stores and 16 pharmacies in the Northwest to 164 stores and 106 pharmacies in the five states.

Details of the deal haven't been released.

This is the largest of several sales related to the $7.6 billion sale of Safeway to investors led by Cerberus Capital Management. Associated Food Stores is buying eight stores in Montana and Wyoming, Associated Wholesale Grocers is purchasing 12 stores in Texas, and Supervalu is buying two Albertsons stores in Everett and Woodinville, Washington.

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CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) -- The average price of regular gasoline nationwide has dropped another 25 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, to $2.47.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that prices will likely keep falling.

Lundberg says the average price of regular gasoline is the lowest it's been in more than five years.

She says lower crude oil prices are driving prices down, along with an abundant oil supply and the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

The highest-priced gas in the Lower 48 states was found in Long Island, New York, at $2.82 a gallon. The lowest was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at $2.06 a gallon.

California's lowest average was in Sacramento, at $2.58 a gallon.

The average price for midgrade gas in the U.S. is $2.71. For premium it's $2.87.

MINE EXPLOSION-INSPECTIONS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Deaths and injuries at the nation's coal mines have been declining since a West Virginia underground mining disaster killed 29 workers less than five years ago.

Coal mines are on pace this year to set a new low mark in mining deaths. So far in 2014 there have been 15 coal mine-related deaths, and with less than a month left in the year, the number could stay below the record 18 set in 2009.

Federal mine safety officials say increased enforcement efforts since the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010 have improved the safety at all the nation's mines. Assistant Labor Secretary Joe Main says officials focused on making coal mines safer after the West Virginia tragedy.

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's oil chief is dismissing allegations that his kingdom conspired to bring down oil prices in order to harm other countries and told a summit of Arab energy leaders that he was confident the market would stabilize.

The kingdom, which is dependent on oil revenues, is able to weather lower oil prices due to large reserves built up over the years. Non-OPEC member Russia and other nations like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela need prices substantially above present levels to meet budget goals and want to drive prices up.

Saudi Arabia maintains it is opposed to cutting production because of fears its market share could erode.

The price of U.S. crude has dipped below $60 a barrel, its lowest in five years. Naimi said he was certain that the oil market would recover with the improvement of the global economy.

An OPEC meeting last month failed to agree on production cuts, mainly because of Saudi opposition to curb its own exports. OPEC controls about 40 percent of the world oil market and Saudi Arabia is the cartel's largest producer.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Dish Network subscribers were unable to watch Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network on Sunday when the channels were taken down as part of contract negotiations.

The Fox blackout is just the latest skirmish as cable and satellite TV providers fight with networks over subscription fees. Dish Network just settled disputes that led to the temporary blackout of some local CBS stations and a separate blackout related to Turner Broadcasting channels -- including Cartoon Network, CNN, Boomerang and Turner Classic Movies.

Dish has more than 14 million satellite TV customers.

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