Wednesday, January 14, 2009

“They changed the name to something that nobody can remember or say. But they did nothing that changes anything.”

NAFTA Superhighway Plan Still Possible


By: David A. Patten
News max
Copyright 2009

Opponents of the proposed NAFTA superhighway are warning that recent reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Last week, the Texas Department of Transportation, known as TxDOT, declared that the Lone Star segment of the $175 billion plan to link Canada, Mexico, and the United States via a single massive highway is dead and buried.

“Make no mistake: The Trans-Texas Corridor as we have known it no longer exists,” announced TxDOT executive director Amadeo Saenz.

David Stall, co-founder of the Corridor Watch advocacy group, hailed the decision to drop the Mexico-to-Oklahoma leg of the proposed superhighway as “a major victory.”

“It was a bad project pushed in the face of legislative and public opposition,” Stall told the Dallas Morning News.

Other opponents of the plan -- which the state legislature initially supported in 2003 -- remain skeptical. They dismiss the TxDOT announcement as a political ploy meant to defuse mounting opposition.

“It’s nothing more than a name change, and that’s all they did,” Dan Byfield of the American Land Foundation, tells Newsmax. “They changed the name to one that no one can remember or say. But they did nothing that changes anything.”

The new plan breaks the corridor into a series of smaller projects, and rechristens it the “Innovative Connectivity Plan.”

Byfield, who helped organize commissions in nine towns in the highway’s path, which many credit with blocking the highway’s progress, says it’s no accident the announcement was made just before the state Legislature convenes. He said the move will provide political cover to the highway supporters.

“It was a very tactical political maneuver on TxDOT’s part,” Byfield says. “It’s their third version of a transportation plan, so it’s hard to believe anything they say anymore.”

Similarly, Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center wrote to supporters Tuesday: “We must also stay vigilant to TxDOT’s next move. Just because they are conceding defeat on their first effort, certainly does not mean they are giving up.”

And Terri Hall, founder of Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom, a leading opponent of the Trans-Texas Corridor, said: “It's clear from the TxDOT director's speech that it's only a name change and the Trans Texas Corridor is, in reality, going underground.”

That so many grass-roots groups have sprung up in Texas to fight the highway is one measure of its growing unpopularity.

Some object see it as a step toward handing over United States sovereignty to the combination of Mexico, the United States, and Canada, which would become a single economic entity called the North American Union.

Others complained that the plan envisioned Mexican 18-wheelers, which often are said not to conform to U.S. safety standards, rolling across the border along the Superhighway, with drivers not even asked to present paperwork until crossing the Texas-Oklahoma line.

And Lone Star state politicians flirted with paying for the project by allowing private firms to help foot the bill, in return for the right to collect tolls. That notion riled opponents who said U.S. drivers would be paying out cash to help boost Mexican industry.

The Superhighway has been touted as the biggest highway project since Dwight Eisenhower launched the interstate highway system in the 1950s.

“We need to keep fighting,” Byfield tells Newsmax. “And everybody we’re working with understands that.”

© 2009 Newsmax

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