NAFTA Inter-Country Highway to be operated by foreigners? Part II
TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.
November 29, 2006
Trackside last discussed aspects of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC, aka The NAFTA Highway). A Texas firm, Zachry Construction Corporation, is one of the two lead partners in the private consortium that is undertaking the design, construction, and operation of the first element of the TTC and is under contract to accomplish the planning for the entire 600 miles of the TTC from the Gulf Coast to the Oklahoma border. Zachry is a very large privately-owned construction company that has completed more than 5,500 projects, including power generation plants, chemical refineries, highways, bridges, and dams. The other partner is Cintra Concessiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., of Madrid, Spain. Cintra is an international developer of transportation infrastructures; its business is concentrated on toll highways and car parks. The company presently manages 21 toll roads totaling over 1,200 miles in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Chile, Canada, and the U.S. Besides the TTC project in the U.S., Cintra maintains and operates two other toll roads, the 157-mile long Indiana Toll Road under a 75-year concession agreement and the Chicago Skyway under a 99-year concession.
Texas has a high-powered sell job going to convince citizens that the TTC is desperately needed and better than apple pie. Part of its effort on its web site at www.keeptexasmoving.com. is the Myth vs. Reality page. The language is all so smooth and reassuring - one Myth/Reality for your consideration: "Myth: A 10-mile-wide swath of land will be purchased for the Oklahoma-Mexico/Gulf Coast element of the Corridor. Reality: Not true. If approved by Federal Highway Administration, a 10-mile-wide study area would become the starting point for a second phase of environmental studies. During the second phase, the additional studies will be conducted within the 10-mile-wide study area to identify 1,200 feet or less for the location of the project. To minimize the amount of right of way needed, incorporating existing highways and railroads is being considered." Just about all of the "Realities" are couched in conditional terms.
Does Oklahoma have a similar highway corridor program in the works to extend the TTC north? Does Kansas have such a program? Official pronouncements say that neither state has anything in the works. It is probably a legally-accurate statement, but it is hard to fathom how the feds and the State of Texas would invest so much money into a transportation corridor that comes to a dead end at the Oklahoma border if some planning has not been given to extending it north. Fitting in to the calculus is the Kansas City SmartPort project. If there was no TTC pointed north capable of moving very large quantities of goods, the SmartPort project does not make sense. If the TTC ended on the Texas/Oklahoma border, it would then be just one more public works monument described under the generic title "A Bridge to Nowhere", tapping taxpayers to fill the pockets of contractors and developers and to ensure transportation department Clerks life-time employment.
A partial answer is given on the web pages of the North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition. NASCO is, as stated on its website: "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 both the trade competitiveness and quality of life in North America. ... NASCO is not a government agency. We have no authority to build or develop anything unilaterally. NASCO will work with our members, state Departments of Transportation and federal and local agencies involved in transportation, trade and security to accomplish our mission. ... NASCO Corridor encompasses Interstate Highways 35, 29 and 94, and the significant east/west connectors to those highways in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Corridor directly impacts the continental trade flow of North America. Membership includes public and private sector entities along the Corridor in Canada, the United States and Mexico." When you look at the NASCO membership, it is obvious that more than a bit of thought and a few dollars are going into laying the groundwork for extending the entire corridor north from Texas. When you find it reported that NASCO has received $2.5M in congressional earmarks from the U.S. Department of Transportation, it becomes increasingly clear that the TTC will not stop at the Oklahoma/Texas border.
See you Trackside.