Sunday, 20 July 2008

Superhighway Fight Not Over Yet

Written by  John F. McManus

John F. McManusIt was a full year ago when the New York Times carried a small 220-word article claiming that rumors about construction of a massive new highway system from Mexico through the United States into Canada were the product of “urban legend.” But the July 31, 2007 article included a tiny 1x1.5-inch photo showing a map of the planned route that would, in effect, bisect Texas and gravely impact other states. Only a conceptual drawing of the road’s potential location, the photo had been released by NASCO, the North American SuperCorridor Coalition. If no substance to the rumors, why the NASCO map?

The Times noted that candidates for the GOP presidential nomination were even then facing questions about this supposedly nonexistent project. Former candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney claimed no knowledge of the project when queried in faraway New Hampshire and Iowa. Others would later concur that there was nothing to it.

With its relatively tiny article, the Times had nevertheless rendered its contribution to discounting the existence of plans for what has been correctly labeled the “NAFTA Superhighway.” Denials that the road project is actually a portion of an even more sinister plan to merge the three North American countries continue to this day, and not just in Texas.

An outpouring of citizen resistance to the scheme throughout Texas, and even into neighboring states, has forced the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to rethink at least part of what is being planned. On June 11, TxDOT announced that it was now “recommending that the I-69 Trans-Texas Corridor Project be developed using existing highway facilities wherever possible.” This roadway, known as TTC-69, would stretch from southern Texas to the state’s northeast corner. If built as originally proposed, a huge chunk of property rights would be its significant victim.

So, TxDOT claims to have rethought TTC-69. While that might be welcome news, what about TTC-35 pictured on the NASCO drawing? If constructed as planned, this massive roadway from Laredo to the Oklahoma border would actually cut the state in half and take millions of acres of farm and ranch land.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who opposes this entire project, saluted the tens of thousands of Texans who had voiced their resistance to TxDOT’s plan. Noting that the Texas agency had received “nearly 28,000 public comments” and “12,000 Texans attended the 47 public hearings held earlier this year,” he nevertheless warned that it was not “time to rest on our laurels.” Many justifiably concerned Texans remain worried about the projected land grabs that would destroy their livelihoods, homes, farms, and ranches. Reasons for their concerns have not disappeared. Ron Paul knows this and he stated, “If I had to guess, they will probably try to implement the NAFTA Superhighway again sometime in the future.”

Linda Stall, a leader of the privately run Corridor Watch organization that has doggedly reported on all aspects of this plan, heartily agreed. Pointing to TxDOT’s announced backing down regarding TTC-69, she cautioned, “TxDOT has only conceded the footprint, not the concept, and [its leaders] are proceeding with the concept in other places.” She added: “In fact, they will move ahead with TTC-35 unless significant changes are made in Austin next session.” She and her small but doughty group are hoping that Texas voters will register their objections to the entire NAFTA Superhighway project when choosing state officials in the fall elections.

Many Texas officials from Governor Perry on down throughout the state’s government are carrying the ball for federal officials, including President Bush, who are determined to create an entity that would function as a North American Union. Their ultimate goal is a sovereignty-compromising entanglement of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The various highway systems being considered are merely part of the plan.

Linda Stall summarized: “Bottom line — this leopard has not changed its spots. Nothing has changed. The Trans Texas Commission and TxDOT are hell bent to sign deals and give away the farm before the legislature can rein them in.” Texans should be mighty glad that the Corridor Watch organization not only exists but that it capably puts down the notion that many Texans’ justifiable fears are mere “urban legend.”

Nineteenth-century poet William Cullen Bryant knew of the need for eternal vigilance when he wrote, “Not yet, O Freedom! Close thy lids in slumber, for thine enemy never sleeps.” Not a Texan, Bryant was a New Englander who understood that government must always be watched. TxDOT’s announcement that TTC-69 would not involve a huge land grab — for now! — is evidence that the people’s voice has been heard.

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