Skip to comments.New Texas truck road drives NAFTA criticism
Posted on 04/10/2007 1:57:16 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
WASHINGTON - A new Texas road being planned to accommodate truck traffic between the United States and Mexico has riled Ohio members of Congress who fear it's the first phase of a "NAFTA Superhighway" that would be used to funnel cheap imports to the Midwest as it links Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Texas and federal highway officials deny that a proposed North-South toll road running parallel to Inter-state 35 is part of a planned international superhighway, and say there are no plans for a transcontinental road.
They insist the new thoroughfare would merely handle some of the extra trucks traversing Texas since the North American Free Trade Agreement reduced the continent's trade barriers, in addition to burgeoning domestic traffic.
"This is nothing more than Texas planning for its own future," said state transportation department spokeswoman Gabriela Garcia, who describes plans for the "Trans-Texas Corridor" as preliminary.
Ohio NAFTA critics, like Toledo Democrat Marcy Kaptur, are still worried. She visited Texas last month to meet with foes of the proposed road and has introduced a bill that would ban Mexican truckers from most roads in the United States.
Kaptur believes the new road would enable Chinese exporters to funnel goods bound for the United States into Mexican ports, like Lazaro Cardenas, instead of ports in California.
From there, she foresees the containers being loaded onto poorly maintained Mexican trucks and brought to the United States through Laredo, Texas, onto the new highway. The redirected imports would cost jobs for U.S. truckers and dockworkers, she believes.
She also envisions Mexican truckers driving cut-rate car parts to the Midwest, costing jobs at auto-parts manufacturing plants in Ohio. All they'd have to do is turn east from I-35 onto I-80.
"It would be like a huge bloodline into our part of the country," Kaptur said.
Because Mexican trucks aren't as well-inspected as their U.S. counterparts, she says they would pose hazards for motorists along U.S. highways. What's more, she fears the trucks from Mexico might boost smuggling of drugs and illegal immigrants.
Kaptur is also concerned about the role a Spanish firm, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, is playing in developing the new Texas road. The same firm now operates the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road, and Kaptur is concerned about its growing control over U.S. infrastructure.
"If a state loses control of its highways, our concern is that tolls will increase and maintenance may suffer," adds Teamsters Union legislative director Fred McLuckie, who shares many of Kaptur's worries about the potential pitfalls of a NAFTA superhighway. "Anytime you put a for-profit entity in charge of a highway there is a potential for shortcutting."
Ohio voters rebuffed a plan by 2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell to lease Ohio's Turnpike to a private company, and Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland does not support the idea, said his spokesman, Keith Dailey.
Kaptur isn't the only Ohioan with reservations about the new Texas road and the prospect of an enhanced trans-continental transportation system to handle NAFTA-related trade.
Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich says he plans to hold an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the topic.
"There are environmental issues, transportation issues, safety issues," Kucinich said. "We are looking at all the implications."
Concerns about the highway are bipartisan. Navarre Republican Rep. Ralph Regula has co-sponsored a resolution that opposes construction of a "NAFTA Superhighway System." He argues such a highway would not bring "any advantages" to the United States.
"I could see why Central America and Mexico would love it," Regula said.
Advocates of enhancing transportation along the I-35 corridor, like Frank Conde of North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, insist there are no plans for a new NAFTA superhighway.
"A lot of sovereignty organizations that have fears the U.S. government will be giving away its ability to govern itself are trying to exploit fears associated with the NAFTA superhighway to advance their cause," Conde said.
He said co-sponsors of the congressional resolution that Regula backs are "not the best informed," and that his nonprofit group, which consists of state transportation departments and development groups along the I-35 corridor, is focusing on making the best use of existing infrastructure to cope with enhanced NAFTA-related traffic.
In addition to construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor, his group promotes use of inland ports, like those in Kansas City and Des Moines, to direct cargo flow around the country, and innovations like electronic manifests that can speed containers through customs.
"Governments never give up the right to inspect everything that crosses the border, but the point is to get smarter and more efficient about it," Conde said.
In Texas itself, plans for the toll road backed by the state's Republican Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peterson are running into snags. A wide variety of civic groups oppose it, and the state's legislature is weighing a two-year moratorium on toll-road privatization.
According to www.corridorwatch.org founder David Stall of Fayetteville, Texas, local concerns about the road include diversion of traffic from businesses that have sprung up around I-35, how concessions along the roadway would be awarded, how condemnations to build the road would be handled, and its effect on local tax rolls.
"Towns will be burdened with providing emergency services to this highway that they get no revenue from," says Stall, who is city manager of Shoreacres, Texas.
Terri Hall, who heads another anti-toll road group, the San Antonio Toll Party, says the new highway would be part of "a new trade corridor that won't benefit Texas."
"This is all about a shift to globalization and trade," Hall said.
Trans-Texas Corridor PING!
Globalization translated really means the road to third world status for America.
I remember Trans Texas Airlines. Mostly DC-3’s.
Well for most of us anyway.
Tree Top Airways
What's wrong with that? The stevedores union in California doesn't want to let west coast ports operate 24 hours a day.
I’d rather let goods travel freely and for the Mexican economy to create good jobs that keep people in Mexico than have uncontrolled immigration from Mexico to the US.
Between Governor Good Hair, Bush, and Gonzales, they’d all like to wipe out the border completely.
I’m all for free trade, but we have to protect our country.
Even the normally pro-illegal Wall St. Journal is against the Mexican trucks.
“who fear it’s the first phase of a “NAFTA Superhighway””
Gee, ya think?
Did they turn into TIA (Texas International Airlines)? A competitor of Braniff, AIR.
Or Tinker Toy Airlines.
I suspect for that to happen, Mexico would have to get rid of its rampant socialism first.
So, you think that *New Road* (they’re calling it now) will stop illegal immigration?
The only thing it will create is jobs to build the road. Very few in Texas or Mexico will benefit from this.
The Mexican side of the border with the U.S. is lined with factories producing manufactured goods formerly made in America. The reason for the relocation of factories on the Mexican side of the border is that labor is cheaper.
Goods made in Mexico are then trucked to American markets.
Our government and American captains of industry are unaware that as jobs go south, Americans will have less money to buy cheap goods from Mexico or anywhere else.
When the International Superhighway comes into being I would warn people not to drive on it. The trucks operating on such a highway will be less safe as untrained, less-qualified drivers, who are sleepy and uninsured creep up on your rear bumper.
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