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 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.

SAFEWAY SALE-HAGGEN

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.

GAS PRICES

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.

MIDEAST OIL

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.

DISH NETWORK-FOX BLACKOUT

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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