Winner: The Utah Highway Patrol effectively killed a bill this week that would have given freeway express lanes a 75 mph speed limit, while keeping all other lanes at 65. Unlike UHP, we have no problem with higher speed limits on roads designed for such things, but the idea of having different speed limits in different lanes on the same road sounds dangerous, not to mention difficult to enforce. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, wanted to entice more people into the express toll lanes during off-peak hours, thus bringing in more revenue. The main purpose of the state's variable toll system, however, should be to discourage rush-hour traffic and avoid long snarls.
Loser: The worst market for new-home sales ever. That sums up the Commerce Department's report for 2011, capped by a dismal December, in which sales fell 2.2 percent. The pace of sales was about half what it needs to be for a healthy economy, economist say. Only 302,000 new homes were sold last year. A report on single-family home construction last week also cited 2011 as the weakest year on record. Of course, the records go back only to 1963. And, for those in search of the inevitable silver lining, home prices continue to drop. In December they fell to a median sales price of $210,300. Add that to mortgage rates at historic lows and you have a great time to buy, especially if you're just entering the market and don't have to sell your current home.
Winner: Television is undergoing a revolutionary change, fueled by a new surge in original programming by Web-only services. As a story published in this newspaper noted, the production values are not yet up to the quality of shows produced by traditional networks, but they are improving. The best part of this trend may be that, in the midst of an endless array of new shows, the Internet may open a new market for family friendly programs that no longer seem to have a constituency on traditional networks. The future of broadcasting may be beyond the reach of FCC watchdogs, but it could provide more quality choices than currently available.
Winner: Courtroom apologies may not always mean much, but the sentencing this week of the so-called "barefoot bandit" provided some reasons for hope. The 20-year-old Colton Harris-Moore terrorized people with burglaries and thefts across several states. His capture was a relief, his federal sentence of 61/2 years, to run concurrently with a 71/2 year sentence imposed by a Washington state court, seems to fit the crimes, and his courtroom statement gave indications that he may have learned his lesson. After apologizing, he said, "The day will come when things are made right." If he just becomes a productive citizen who doesn't harm other people, that would be enough.