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.

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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 August 28, 2014 17:08 GMT

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- After a bleak start to the year, the U.S. economy rebounded vigorously in the April-June quarter, growing at a brisk annual rate of 4.2 percent, slightly faster than first estimated.

The upward revision supported expectations that the second half of 2014 will prove far stronger than the first half.

The Commerce Department's second estimate of growth for last quarter compares with its initial estimate of 4 percent. The revision reflected stronger business investment in new equipment and structures than first thought.

The seasonally adjusted 4.2 percent annual growth rate for the gross domestic product came after the economy had shrink at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in the January-March quarter, the biggest drop in activity since the depths of the Great Recession.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, a low level that signals employers are cutting few jobs and hiring is likely to remain strong.

The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 299,750. That's just 6,000 higher than four weeks ago, when the average fell to the lowest level in more than eight years.

When employers hold onto their workers, it suggests they are more confident in the economy and could step up hiring.

The applications data is the latest sign that the job market is steadily healing. Average job gains since February have been the best in eight years.

PENDING HOME SALES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in July, a sign that buying has improved as mortgage rates have slipped, the number of listings has risen and the rate of price increases has slowed.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.3 percent to 105.9 last month. Still, the index remains 2.1 percent below its level a year ago.

The pressures that caused home sales to stall last year have started to ease. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped to 4.1 percent, a 52-week low. Prices are no longer rising at double-digit annual rates, thereby helping to improve affordability.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

MORTGAGE RATES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average 30-year U.S. mortgage rate remains at a 52-week low this week.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage is 4.10 percent, the same as last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, has risen to 3.25 percent from 3.23 percent.

At its 52-week low of 4.10 percent, the rate on a 30-year mortgage is down from 4.53 percent at the start of the year. Rates have fallen even though the Federal Reserve has been trimming its monthly bond purchases, which are intended to keep long-term borrowing rates low. The purchases are set to end in October.

The low rates appear to have boosted U.S. home sales.

BANK EARNINGS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. banks' earnings rose 5.2 percent in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and lending marked its fastest pace since 2007.

The data issued Wednesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a robust picture as the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago. The improving economy has brought greater demand for loans and stepped-up lending.

The FDIC reported that U.S. banks earned $40.2 billion in the second quarter of this year, up from $38.2 billion in the same period in 2013.

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The WHO's assistant director-general for emergency operations, Dr. Bruce Aylward, says "there is a super risk of the response effort being choked off" if airlines restrict flights to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

SUPERMARKET FEUD

TEWKSBURY, Mass. (AP) -- Workers at the New England supermarket chain Market Basket are cheering the return of former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas (deh-MOO'-lahs), following a feud with his cousin that saw him fired.

Demoulas announced Wednesday that an agreement has been reached for him to buy majority stake in the business -- $1.5 billion the 50.5 percent of the company owned by his rival cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and his allies. The deal is expected to take several months.

There was uproar after Arthur T. Demoulas' firing weeks ago, with workers revolting and customers boycotting the business.

In a speech at company headquarters today in Massachusetts, Demoulas told workers, that he's "in awe of what you have all accomplished."

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