INTERNATIONALIZING U.S. ROADS
NewsWithViews | June 10, 2005
Imagine this: your state government puts a transportation corridor in your neighborhood. It’s nearly a quarter-mile wide. It will serve vehicles and trains and incorporate oil, gas, electric and water lines. Try to fight it and you’ll not only face the combined might of your local, state, and federal governments, but foreign interests as well. The internationalization of U.S. roads has begun.
We’re not just talking about isolated instances of privately-built toll roads with foreign management, as we’ve seen in Southern California. We’re talking about networks of toll roads that may be built by foreign builders, managed by foreign operators, function primarily to accommodate foreign goods, and connect U.S. roads to similar networks in Canada, Mexico and, later, Central and South America.
Interstate 69, for example, is a planned 1600 mile national highway connecting Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Eight states are involved in the project: Once completed, I-69 will extend from Port Huron, Michigan to the Texas/Mexico border.
In Texas, I-69 will be part of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) project – a 4000 mile network of existing and new toll roads – which will create the largest private highway system in America. Interstate 35, also called the Oklahoma to Mexico/Gulf Coast element, will be developed as part of the TTC.
Plans call for the TTC to be 1200 feet wide with 10 vehicle lanes (three passenger vehicle lanes in each direction), truck lanes (two in each direction), six rail lines (three in each direction), two tracks for high-speed passenger rail, two for commuter rail and two for freight. The corridor will include a 200 feet right-of-way for oil, gas, electric and water lines.
According to Corridor Watch, a group opposing the TTC, Governor Rick Perry announced his Corridor vision in 2002, instructed the Texas Department of Transportation to prepare an action plan and within six-months the Department of Transportation presented the finished product to the state Transportation Commission. “Without any substantive discussion or debate and without public comment,” the Commission approved it, a plan projected to cost up to $185 billion and take up to 50 years to build.
In 2003, the Texas Department of Transportation sent representatives to Europe to find “partners,” visiting London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. By December 2004, Texas had selected a Spanish firm to finance and build the first segment of the TTC. In March 2005, Department of Transportation officials, joined by Governor Perry and Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters, signed a 342-page agreement with the firm.
Not only did the Bush Administration bless the project, but the Federal Highway Administration announced in March 2004 that the first segment of the TTC had been granted “experimental project status” and construction could begin before the environmental study was complete. Work could start even before public hearings were completed.
Three months later, the Republican Party of Texas adopted as part of its platform the following statement: “Because there are issues of confiscation of private land, State and National sovereignty . . . , the Party urges the repeal of (legislation) authorizing the Trans-Texas Corridor. Further, we urge the removal of all authorization and powers granted the Texas Transportation Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation for the construction and operation of the Trans-Texas Corridor.”
Corridor Watch now reports widespread and growing public opposition, describing Texans as “extremely concerned about the state creating a transportation, communication, utility and economic development monopoly. They are concerned about a project that will consume 584,000 acres of land impacting land owners, farms, ranches, wildlife, the environment, communities, taxpayers, water rights, local economies, and more.”
Texans are also concerned about how the law authorizing the TTC grants dictatorial powers to the Transportation Commission for the taking of private property. The powers include purchase and condemnation of property contiguous to an existing or planned segment of the TTC, for use in constructing or operating the TTC, or for ancillary facilities that directly benefit users of the TTC, e.g., businesses, and – “for virtually any revenue generating purpose.”
“With complete disregard for public will and the citizens of Texas,” Corridor Watch says, “our government is marching forward.” But Texas state officials are not marching alone.
Texas politicians are marching in lockstep with international trade groups such as North America’s Super Corridor Coalition ( NASCO), the North American International Trade Corridor Partnership, (NAITCP) and the Central North American Trade Corridor Association (CNATCA)
Texas politicians are marching in lockstep with international trade groups such as North America’s Super Corridor Coalition ( NASCO), the North American International Trade Corridor Partnership, (NAITCP) and the Central North American Trade Corridor Association (CNATCA),
NASCO (www.nasco.com) describes itself as a “public/private, non-profit corporation seeking to create an international trade corridor system throughout North America, secure funding for certain projects, i.e., tax dollars, and promote the development of International Trade Processing Centers. A lobbying group, linked to other lobbying groups, it is “partnered” with the North America’s Supercorridor Caucus in Congress and working with Senate committees on a Multi-State International Corridor Development Program. Tim Brown, a Bell County, Texas Commissioner is President.
NASCO opines that, because of “several important trade agreements, the heartland of America enters a new era as a geographic crossroad for international trade.” They refer to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) nations of Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. and “those who will follow,” doubtless meaning the CAFTA and FTAA (pending trade agreements) countries of Central and South America. NASCO’s Web site links to the NAFTA Secretariat site where you may view "the complete text of the NAFTA."
The NAITCP (www.naitcp.org) purports to be a “partnership of cities of Mexico, the United States and Canada linked by a trade corridor that works to promote economic and social development in our region.” NAITCP just held its 11th annual summit in Mexico, May 11-13. It was called “Hemispheria, the North American Convergence Summit,” and featured working groups on “Trade and Transportation Corridors in North America, Smart Borders, and Cultural Integration.”
The CNATCA (www.cnatca.org) aims to encourage “continued economic integration between the three North American countries and to foster greater collective involvement in the emerging global economy.” Dedicated to “proactive global citizenship,” the Association’s Web site presents the flags of Canada, the United States and Mexico both horizontally and vertically, but as one entity, the U.S. flag between the other two.
CNATCA’s project, the Central North American Trade Corridor, extends from Alaska through the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, and Texas, and then south of the U.S. border to Mexico City.
No wonder Texans are frustrated. How much influence can citizens exert when policy-making goes international? This is a question Americans everywhere should be asking, for the next trade corridor, toll road network, or inland port could land anywhere.
Nearly two dozen states have passed legislation allowing their transportation systems to operate toll roads and okaying private firms to build and run them. The Bush Administration is easing the way for states to convert car pool lanes to toll lanes, and to allow private investors to build and operate highways. Converting existing roads to toll corridors – thereby forcing taxpayers to pay each time they use roads for which they’ve already paid – is a great revenue producer for big spending governments.
California might be next. Governor Schwarzenegger reportedly favors toll roads and last February offered a provocative glimpse of California’s future: “We’re going to make an announcement really soon where we’re going to look at our whole infrastructure and transportation and we have a very creative way of financing it. We want to approach it in a very radical way and then look at all kinds of transportation.”
Could the governor be thinking of the TTC model, transit ways built by foreign firms with foreign money in exchange for decades of toll revenue? Providing political justification for such a move is the state’s near-bankrupt condition, years of diverting road monies to finance general obligations, and a freeway system in crisis with the volume of international cargo traffic exploding.
Why foreign involvement? Besides cost considerations, modern trade agreements prohibit discrimination against trading “partners”, i.e., foreign suppliers of goods and services, even in the area of government procurement. NAFTA, for example, mandates treatment “no less favorable than the most favorable treatment” the U.S. accords to its own goods and suppliers.
Another NAFTA mandate – and likely the primary impetus for developing the Texas corridor – authorizes Mexican trucks to transport international cargo throughout the U.S.; it also allows the establishment of Mexican trucking enterprises in the U.S. and permits Mexican bus services throughout the U.S.
Lawsuits based on environmental issues have delayed implementation of these provisions, but in June 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that environmental reviews were not required. The latest holdup is an agreement on safety standards, UPI reporting in March 2005, that Mexico would not allow U.S. safety inspectors to check trucks on its side of the border.
But expect Mexican trucks to roll soon and, then, look out. Trade agreements with all of Central and South America are pending. If approved by Congress – the North American Trade Corridor will likely be linked with transportation corridors all the way to Tierra del Fuego.
The trade agreements that have already transformed America’s culture and economy; will now slice up America’s heartland – at U.S. taxpayers’ expense – decimating farmland, small communities and, of course, property rights. Our shredded borders will open fully to trucks, busses, and people from all points north and south, the trucks delivering products and services once produced in the U.S.A. by Americans.
President Bush is demanding Congressional approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Many legislators – even those who express outrage over present border problems -- have already caved. Call your Congressman toll free at 1(877)762-8762. Demand a No! vote on CAFTA.