The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Business

January 25, 2010

Report: $997M in highway funds don’t help traffic

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Nearly $1 billion in transportation funds have been used over the past 18 years on Texas projects that had little to do with improving traffic flow, a newspaper reported Sunday.

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram analysis of state and federal records found that $997 million worth of work in Texas has fallen under a federal transportation enhancement program that started in 1991.

The spending includes $42.7 million for the first phase of a 5-acre park being built on top of a freeway in downtown Dallas and $16.1 million to restore the Battleship Texas in the southeast Texas town of La Porte.

The newspaper reported that state legislators often require the Texas Department of Transportation to fund pet projects through last-minute additions to the department’s appropriations.

Critics blasted the spending as wasteful in a state that increasingly relies on toll roads to try to ease big-city highways clogged by congestion.

“What if the roof of your house was leaking, pipes were breaking, and the government tells you that you have to spend money to buy a fancy piece of art on the wall?” said Justin Keener, vice president for policy and communications at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonpartisan research institute in Austin.

Transportation enhancement funding was part of an overhaul by Congress nearly 20 years ago, when states and major cities were accused of decades’ worth of shortsighted decisions on highway money.

The federal government directed states to spend 10 percent of their surface transportation funds on what were called enhancements. The idea was to promote a mix of uses such as hike-and-bike trails and highway landscaping. States were left to choose the projects themselves.

“We didn’t ask for them. It’s a mandate,” said Ted Houghton of El Paso, one of five members of the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the state’s transportation department.

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  • Exxon Mobil posts lowest annual profit since ’02 EW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil’s earnings were cut by more than half to $19.3 billion in 2009, the lowest total in seven years, as company refineries struggled with a plunge in fuel consumption around the world.

    But the world’s largest publicly traded oil company remains the profit champ among U.S. public companies. Wal-Mart is expected to earn $14 billion for the year ended Jan. 31, and Microsoft earned $14.6 billion in the fiscal year ended in June 2009.

    Exxon’s results have swung with the price of oil and the impact of the global recession. When oil spiked above $147 a barrel in mid-2008, Exxon set ever-higher marks for earnings by a U.S. company. Then oil prices plummeted, and Exxon suffered a yearlong hangover that included its smallest quarterly earnings in several years.

    February 1, 2010

  • Toyota tells dealers parts on way to fix pedals WASHINGTON (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday its dealers should get parts to fix a sticky gas pedal problem by the end of this week as the automaker apologized to customers and tried to bring an end to a recall that has affected 4.2 million vehicles worldwide.

    The company said in a statement that it has begun shipping parts and is training dealers on the repairs. Some dealers will stay open around the clock to fix the 2.3 million cars and trucks affected by the recall in the U.S.

    Technical bulletins on how to install the new parts should arrive at dealers by midweek, the company told dealers in an e-mail. It was not clear exactly when repairs would start, although dealers have said they’ll begin as soon as possible.

    The automaker also said Monday it would suspend production of eight U.S. models affected by the recall this week, with factories restarting on Feb. 8.

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  • Apple introduces new $499 iPad tablet computer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the company’s much-anticipated iPad tablet computer Wednesday, calling it a new third category of mobile device that is neither smart phone nor laptop, but something in between.

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    Jobs said the device would be useful for reading books, playing games or watching video, describing it as “so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone.”

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  • Dealers swamped by worried Toyota drivers NEW YORK (AP) — Toyota dealers across the country were swamped with calls Wednesday from concerned drivers but had few answers a day after the company announced it would stop selling and building eight models because of faulty gas pedals.

    Toyota insisted the problem — sudden, uncontrolled acceleration — was “rare and infrequent” and said dealers should deal with customers “on a case-by-case basis.” But drivers of Toyotas and those who share the road with them were left with uncertainty.

    In an unprecedented move, the company said late Tuesday it would halt sales for the eight models — which make up more than half of Toyota’s U.S. sales volume — to fix the gas pedals. Last week, Toyota issued a recall for the same eight models, affecting 2.3 million vehicles.

    A private firm said it had identified 275 crashes and 18 deaths because of sudden, uncontrollable acceleration in Toyotas since 1999.

    In North Palm Beach, Fla., Clare Roden showed up at a Toyota dealership worried about the 2010 Camry she purchased recently. She was relieved when she was told her accelerator was not a problem part.

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