Divide and Conquer
by Richard D. Vogel
The NAFTA corridors system currently under construction will irreversibly divide the U.S. geographically, economically, and socially for the sake of profit. The cumulative consequences of this "biggest engineering and construction project in the history of the U.S." promise to be more damaging than any natural disaster in modern times.
The largest of these massive transportation corridors, designed primarily to accommodate NAFTA traffic from Mexico across the U.S., will be 1,200 feet wide and consume 146 acres (almost 1/4 of a square mile) per mile. Because the corridors will contain high-speed passenger and freight rails and underground water, gas, and petroleum pipelines, as well as multiple high-speed truck and passenger vehicle lanes, they will be constructed at grade level and permanently divide the areas through which they pass. To make matters worse, the extensive grading and construction of barriers to protect the high-speed traffic will alter air currents and watersheds and prevent the movement of wildlife.
Dividing the Nation
The two priority NAFTA corridors under construction, I-35 and I-69, will divide the nation in half from south to north. The I-35 corridor, beginning at the international border at Laredo, will split the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa in half, and lop off the southeast corner and the eastern edge of Minnesota. The I-69 corridor will sever the Gulf Coast from the state of Texas and cut diagonally across Arkansas. It will then slice off the western margins of Tennessee and Kentucky before bisecting Indiana and cutting a big chunk out of southeastern Michigan.
The losses due to these divisions will be enormous:
Ultimately, up to 1/2 million acres of land, much of it prime agricultural and undeveloped open spaces, could be permanently lost from U.S. land stocks to these two corridors alone (and several more are in the planning stages). These properties will also be permanently removed from tax roles, depriving local communities of critical revenues for education and infrastructure support.
Large tracts of private and public land will be practically inaccessible because of the blocking of county highways and farm-to-market roads and the high cost of bridging the corridors (bridges will have to span over 1/2 a mile and local bridges will have to be paid for by the local community). Consequently, where the corridors pass through inhabited areas, many communities, and even families, will be permanently divided.
Because the corridors will be toll roads and local entities have to finance the construction of access ramps, many small communities will be isolated from the mainstream economy. Consequently, the NAFTA corridors will have an exclusionary effect -- exactly the opposite effect of the existing Interstate Highway System.
The bigger trucks and faster speeds that will be permitted on the corridors and the increased volume of traffic mean that air, sound, and surface water pollution will all increase geometrically. Public Citizen reports that one consulting firm predicted a 400 percent increase in traffic on NAFTA highways between 1995 and 2020. Significantly, the towering barriers that are being erected along the route of corridors where they pass through residential areas, while muffling the roar of the traffic to a degree, will only aggravate air pollution, the most dangerous environmental impact of the corridors.
Multiplying the Profits
A primary purpose of the NAFTA corridor system is to accommodate the flood of cheap manufactured goods from the Far Eastern Pacific Rim to the heartland of America. The strategy of many corridor backers is to bypass organized labor on the West Coast (primarily Long Beach and Los Angeles) and route the containerized freight south through Mexican ports and then north by rail and truck via the corridor system in order to save on shipping costs. These capitalists are willing to divide the nation with no concern for the collateral damage to the environment and communities along the route.
The NAFTA corridor system is meeting considerable resistance. Various environmental protection groups are campaigning against the project, and the powerful Texas Farm Bureau, citing the concerns listed above among others, has asked the Texas legislature to "scrap" the whole corridor project. Many local communities, including 35 counties in Texas, have passed resolutions against having the NAFTA corridors in their back yards. Ranchers in Grimes County, Texas, which will be divided by the I-69 corridor, have organized what they call a "direct action" network against the project. When I asked one rancher what "direct action" means, he nodded towards the scoped rifle in the gun rack in his pick-up and said, "We're ready for when they come to take our land."
It would seem that this latest scheme to divide the nation for profit has also deeply divided the people.
Richard D. Vogel, "The NAFTA Corridors: Offshoring U.S. Transportation Jobs to Mexico" (Monthly Review 57.9, February 2006)
To join the resistance, go to www.corridorwatch.org, seek out environmental organizations that oppose the NAFTA corridors such as the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club at hoosier.sierraclub.org, or contact the Coalition Against NAFTA Superhighways at P.O. Box 4347, Arcata, CA 95518.
© 2006 Monthly REview