Friday, June 16, 2006

Trans-Texas Corridor or NASCO Bypass?

US divided by superhighway plan


Craig Howie
The Scotsman (UK)
Copyright 2006

A MASSIVE road four football fields wide and running from Mexico to Canada through the heartland of the United States is being proposed amid controversy over security and the damage to the environment.

The "nation's most modern roadway", proposed between Laredo in Texas and Duluth, Minnesota, along Interstate 35, would allow the US to bypass the west coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to import goods from China and the Far East into the heart of middle America via Mexico, saving both cost and time.

However, critics argue that the ten-lane road would lay a swathe of concrete on top of an already over-developed transport infrastructure and further open the border with Mexico to illegal immigrants or terrorists.

According to a weekly Conservative magazine published in the US, the US administration is "quietly yet systematically" planning the massive highway, citing as a benefit that it would negate the power of two unions, the Longshoremen and Teamsters.

Another source claimed the highway was a "bi-partisan effort" with support from both Republicans and Democrats that would reduce freight transport times across the nation by days.

Under the plan - believed to be an extension of a strategic transportation plan signed in March last year by the US president, George Bush, Paul Martin, the then prime minister of Canada, and Vincente Fox, the Mexican president - imported goods would pass a border "road bump" in the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas, before being loaded on to lorries for a straight run to a major hub, or "SmartPort", in Kansas, Oklahoma.

Border guards and customs officers would check the electronic security tags of lorries and their holds at a £1.6 million facility being built in Kansas City, before sending them on to the road network that links the US cities of Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit with Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver across the Canadian border.

Rail tracks and pipelines for oil and natural gas would run alongside the road.

Following the release of a 4,000-page environmental study, construction of the first leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor is reportedly due to begin next year, backed by US state and governmental agencies and a Spanish private sector company, Concessions de Infraestructuras de Transporte.

Tiffany Melvin, the executive director of Nasco, a non-profit organisation which has received £1.4 million from the US Department of Transport to study the proposal, said: "We're working on developing the existing system; these highways were developed in the 1950s and we have number of different programmes we're working on to provide alternative fuels and improve safety and security issues.

"We get comments that we are working to bring in terrorists and drug dealers, but this is simply not true.

"This is a bi-partisan effort that will ultimately improve our transportation infrastructure.

"Trade with China is increasing greatly, and the costs of our transportation system are ultimately born by the consumer.

"We do offer links to Canada and Mexico, but we are working on the trade competitiveness of America. We are planning for the future."

Eric Olson, the transportation spokesmen for the California-based Sierra Club, a national environmental awareness organisation, said the road would cause significant damage.

"Something on that scale would have a massive environmental impact," he said.

"Building a large-scale new highway does not seem like the best solution.

"There is a great need for fixing our existing roads and bridges. That needs to be a priority before we start building new massive road projects."

© 2006 The Scotsman Publications Ltd: