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ExpressPass for trucks launched at Lewiston bridge

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is launching an automatic payment system for trucks at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

The ExpressPass program allows trucks to use two automated tollbooths at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and functions much like the EZ-Pass toll collection system used on the New York State Thruway and other toll roads and bridges.

A sensor at the booth will read the driver's ExpressPass card, count the number of axles on the vehicle and deduct the appropriate toll from a pre-deposited account maintained by the drivers and trucking firms enrolled in the program.

"This is essentially a VIP line for truckers," said Victor Montalbo, the bridge commission's manager of administration and finance.

Bridge commission officials believe the ExpressPass system, which is expected to serve 270 trucking companies and 15,000 individual trucks, will reduce wait times at the tollbooths.

The system also can be used by tour buses crossing the Rainbow Bridge, which does not handle trucks, or the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

Information about the program is available at the bridge commission's website, www.niagarafallsbridges.com, or by calling 285-6322, Ext. 4143.

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Lake shippers lament cuts

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Great Lakes shipping companies say their industry would be hit hard by an Obama administration proposal to cut funding by one-third for dredging the region's ports and waterways.

The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force says if Congress approves the 2012 spending plan, the amount of sediment removed from the lakes' shipping channels will be the smallest since record-keeping began more than 50 years ago. The group said Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers would dredge only 11 of the 83 U.S. ports on the lakes.

Task force President John Baker says clogged waterways already force ships to lighten loads. He says the government can afford more dredging even at a time of budget cutting because there's a $5.6 billion surplus in a trust fund from taxes on waterborne commerce.

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Insurance appeals advised

Don't take no for a final answer when a health insurer rejects a claim and leaves behind an unpaid bill.

A report from the Government Accountability Office says as many as 50 percent of some appeals prompt insurers to reverse their decisions.

Insurers frequently deny claims due to billing errors, missing information or judgments on whether the care or service is appropriate. Experts say some denials are based on fixable mistakes, and an appeal to an insurer can lead to a reversal.

The report also showed that appeals to state review programs fared well, too.

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Five Star stock sale ends

Financial Institutions, parent of Five Star Bank, said it completed its previously announced public stock offering, raising $43 million in net proceeds after expenses.

The Warsaw-based company sold 2,813,475 shares of common stock at $16.35 per share, including 366,975 shares purchased by underwriters of the offering to handle extra demand. That means underwriters -- Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Janney Montgomery Scott -- exercised their "over-allotment option" in full. In all, total gross proceeds amounted to $46 million.

The company said it will use a portion of the proceeds to repay the remaining $25 million preferred stock investment of the U.S. Treasury through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, and to repurchase the related warrant it sold to Treasury to buy the bank's stock.

The remaining proceeds will be used for general working capital purposes.

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iPad 2 sale in Japan delayed

SEATTLE (AP) -- Apple Inc. has postponed the release of its iPad 2 tablet computer in Japan as the country grapples with the tsunami's devastation.

The device had been set to go on sale March 25. Apple said it is delaying the launch "while the country and our teams focus on recovering from the recent disaster."

The new iPad has been widely sold out since going on sale earlier this month in the U.S. One analyst estimated that Apple may have sold as many as half a million of them in their first day on the market, a faster pace than the first iPad's sales.

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