Legislators need to repair Michigan roads

Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014
Legislators need to repair Michigan roads story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Already there are potholes out there that seem more like sinkholes, with some of them seemingly large enough to swallow a city.

And it's only getting started.

Just wait until the ice starts to dramatically thaw, and expansion gives way to contraction.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says maybe, at long last, it's time for legislators to put aside their aspirations for re-election and start spending some real money to, once again, make driving in Michigan a tolerable experience.


If you're in the business of fixing cars beaten up by our crumbling roads and bridges, you might have financial reason to think things are okay just the way they are.

And why not?

According to news reports, the average yearly cost of fixing each one of our state's 7 million vehicles is $536. That's the annual cost per car for added fuel consumption, tire wear and tear, shocks, axles, and other repairs--not to mention lower trade-in values--for a total of more than $2 billion.

That's twice as much as the Governor and all his horses are hoping to cobble together to attack the problem this year.  The State of Michigan, its counties, townships and cities, have all gone over-budget this year just trying to cope with all the record-setting cold and snow.

There's pretty much nothing left.

But its not as though this problem snuck up on us--we've been in a patch, patch, patch mode for decades. This state, with its illustrious automotive history, the state that still puts the nation on wheels, has many of the worst roads  in the country.

They're not just ugly, uncomfortable and costly--they're dangerous.  And the only way to change that is to replace them.

This is where the governor and the legislature have got to stand up and be counted. No one likes new taxes--particularly elected officials who's number one priority is to get reelected.

Nonetheless, new roads and bridges aren't free. And we need more money to get the job done. And no, we can't take any more away from education.

The  idea most widely discussed is a percentage tax on fuel--that way when the price of gas goes up, so does state revenue.

No, its not fun to pay more for anything these days. But the money has to come from someplace. And its not going to come from the feds.

In fact, just today federal transportation officials said the highway trust fund will be insolvent by next year, and that unless Congress allocates billions more dollars for road construction, there won't be much going on anywhere.

To give you an idea where we stand on spending per capita among states a lot like us:
  • In Minnesota its $315.
  • In Ohio its $235.
  • In Wisconsin, $231.
  • And here in Michigan: $174.
Not enough.

Look--we are, all of us, already paying out tons of money to fix our cars because we have terrible roads.

For me, I'd be willing to pay a little more now so I can pay a little  less in the future.

In Lansing, it's going to take some political fortitude in this election year to make that happen.

But isn't that why people run for office in the first place? To get things done? To make things happen? To do the right thing? Is that too much to ask?

We need new roads and bridges. And we need to get started right now.

In this corner, I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 09, 2015 17:12 GMT


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cheaper oil and less demand for autos and machinery weighed on wholesalers in August, as their inventories edged up just slightly while sales dropped.

The Commerce Department said today that wholesale stockpiles rose 0.1 percent, and sales fell 1 percent. Sales have slid 4.7 percent over the past 12 months. Inventories have increased 4.1 percent.

Falling oil prices account for much of the declining sales.

Oil inventories -- which are measured in dollars -- plummeted 4.6 percent in August and 36.6 percent over the past 12 months. Sales of autos and machinery also slipped. But rising inventories for equipment, pharmaceuticals and chemicals suggest that wholesalers still see ongoing demand heading into end of the year.

Wholesale inventories are at a seasonally adjusted $583.9 billion, 4.1 percent above a year ago.

Sales weakened as the broader economy began to cool in August, hampered in large part by the risks of a worldwide deceleration in economic activity.


NEW YORK (AP) -- A voting member of the Federal Reserve's policy committee says that he still thinks an interest-rate increase will be appropriate by year's end. But he acknowledges that the outlook for the economy appears cloudier than it did a few weeks ago.

Dennis Lockhart, president of the Fed's Atlanta regional bank, noted that the most recent economic figures have sent mixed signals, with higher risks than he had earlier forecast. Notably, the government said last week that employers cut back sharply on hiring in September and added fewer jobs in July and August than previously thought.

Lockhart said he will closely review consumer activity before deciding how to vote on whether to raise rates at one of the Fed's two final meetings of 2015.

For now, he said, he thinks the economy's progress remains "satisfactory."

Lockhart made his remarks to the annual meeting of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in New York.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that a Fed rate hike remains likely this year but that a final decision will depend on how the economy performs.

In an interview with CNBC, William Dudley says he expects solid U.S. economic growth to offset weakness overseas, which is hurting U.S. exports. But he says the economy will need to further improve for the Fed to raise rates from record lows.

The Fed's final two meetings of 2015 will be later this month and in December. Though Dudley says a rate hike could theoretically occur at any meeting, his comments seemed to favor December over October.

Some economists still think the Fed will delay a hike until 2016 because of pressures from overseas and excessively low inflation.


NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart has named Brett Biggs, an executive in its international division, as its next chief financial officer.

Biggs will take over on Dec. 31, though Charles Holley, who is retiring, will remain with Wal-Mart for a month to help with the transition.

Biggs has been CFO and executive vice president of Wal-Mart's international business since 2014. He has played a number of roles at Wal-Mart since joining the company in 2000.

Holley has been CFO for nearly five years and has been with the company for more than two decades.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is trying to boost sales. It has increased spending on its online operations to compete with Amazon.com and other online retailers, and it is trying to improve its selection and customer service at stores.

Washington Times