Hello! Wakeup Call!
Just what we need! A brand new 4,000 mile $184 billion transportation highway splitting the country in two. With oil hovering near $75 a barrel and gasoline topping $3 a gallon, a host of federal and state agencies are stealthily working to construct a gigantic, 10-lane superhighway right through the middle of the United States, from the Mexican border north to Canada, in an effort to promote trade under NAFTA.
The corridors would have up to six lanes for cars and four lanes for trucks, and in addition accommodate railroads, energy pipelines, utility lines and broadband cables. The brand-new vertical ribbon of concrete will bisect the nation as it would heighten air pollution and dramatically increase truck and car traffic.
Doesn't anyone in Washington have qualms about promoting yet greater usage of fossil fuels and their consequent greenhouse gas emissions? About creating another segment of our infrastructure that makes us ever more dependent on Middle East oil producers, and the terrorists financed by the dollars we send to the cartel and its acolytes? Must our government continue to pave their way -- literally, in this case -- with harebrained schemes like this planned new superhighway?
Has any thought been give to the potential geo- political and social consequences of so symbolically bifurcating the nation with a brand new vertical ribbon of concrete at a time of dangerously deteriorating political discourse and civility throughout the land.
The unpleasant odor of "oiligopoly" hangs all over this project. Ask yourself who has a vested interest in building thousands of miles of new roads to carry millions more gas-guzzling trucks and cars between Mexico and Canada? Then, too, history has shown that building more highways contributes to ever more congestion and ex-urban sprawl (if you build it, they will drive on it), which forces more and more Americans into ever longer, fuel-swilling commutes.
If you think I'm off base, ask yourself why this enormous undertaking is rolling along without any legislation directly authorizing it. And why has our deeply oil vested administration keptthis program out of the public spotlight, and why has President George W. Bush not made one speech alerting the American public to the Administration's plans.
There has been virtually no robust national debate on the issue. Plans for the project are largely hidden from public view even though the Department of Transportation has helped fund the project by extending multimillion dollar grants to NASCO(the North American Super Corridor Coalition Inc.), an organization describing itself in the following mouthful, "a non profit organization dedicated to developing the world's first international, integrated and secure, multi-modal transportation system along the International Mid-Continent Trade and Transportation Corridor to improve the trade competitiveness and quality of life in North America".
The question arises, whose lives are going to be improved? Certainly not the many thousands of homes and farms that will have become easy pickings for condemnation under the Supreme Court's notorious "Kelo" decision, or as Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn has put it, a "land grab" of historic proportions.
According to "Human Events" various government agencies, scores of private NGOs have all been working behind the scenes to create the NAFTA Superhighway. The lack of transparency reaches the point whereby the contractors for the first leg of the project, that is from the Mexican border to Oklahoma, have successfully kept the terms of their contractual agreements secret and far from public scrutiny. The contractors are a United States and Spanish consortium, Cintra-Zachry. What we do know is that they propose paying $7.2 billions for the first segment and in return, would operate that portion of the superhighway and collect tolls for years to come.
If we are going to promote NAFTA and trilateral trade, I believe it makes a lot more sense to look to transportation methods that could lessen our dependence on gas guzzling trucks and cars with their consequent impact on greenhouse gases and our oil dependency. The plans on the drawing board for the NAFTA superhighway include passenger and freight rail lines running alongside oil and natural gas pipelines. So why not scrap the concrete corridor altogether and funnel the freed-up billions of dollars to new mass transportation projects and to enhancing our existing rail and inland waterway freight-hauling systems? Both methods of transportation are vastly more energy efficient and less polluting than trucks. An extended rail or barge waterway link -- think Erie Canal -- makes good sense, perhaps even great sense.
Times have changed -- our dependence on foreign oil is a genuine threat to our national security and our gluttonous consumption of fossil fuels and their consequent impact on greenhouse gases must be drastically curtailed. America must adjust its thinking accordingly. It is madness now, with all that we know, to initiate policies that fly in the face of these urgent priorities.