An extensive search of the available literature and archived websites establishes that either a fundamental incompetence or a basic political dishonesty drives those deniers who want to squash any public discussion of “NAFTA Superhighways.”
Directly stated, NAFTA Superhighway deniers either negligently overlook a large body of specific references by transportation economists, transportation trade associations and numerous government reports, or they intentionally disregard these references to make a political point.
In 1998, transportation economist John P. McCray published an important paper entitled, “North American Free Trade Agreement Truck Highway Corridors: U.S.-Mexican Truck Rivers of Trade” in the Transportation Research Record.
McCray’s slide show clearly evidences that McCray’s thought had evolved to include the current continental trade pattern based on a north-south highway corridor infrastructure needed to accommodate NAFTA trade.
By 2003, McCray’s analysis expanded to include a growing volume of World Trade Organization container freight coming from China, headed to enter the continent largely through U.S. ports on the West Coast and now increasingly through Mexican ports on the Pacific.
A Sierra Club report written in 2000 addressed directly the impact increasing continental transportation of freight carried by trucks on NAFTA transportation corridors was anticipated to have on the environment.
The Sierra Club wrote that, “The concept of the ‘NAFTA trade corridor’ has gained traction. Broadly defined, the corridors comprise the transportation infrastructure and systems that facilitate the flow of traffic both domestically and across the North American borders, particularly those traffic flows prompted by the trade liberalization of NAFTA.”
The report further tied the concept of “NAFTA trade corridors” to the transportation infrastructure of the interstate highways.
The Sierra Club explained candidly that, “Current discussions of NAFTA trade corridors are inherently dynamic, inextricably political, and typically, road-centered. In the absence of a uniform definition or objective indicators that coherently distinguish a ‘NAFTA trade corridor’ from another segment of interstate, for example, various trade routes have been proposed for designation as ‘NAFTA corridors.'”
The Sierra Club settled for the designation of “NAFTA trade corridors” as “those existing transportation systems that are actually carrying the majority of trade traffic volume.”
The report concluded that, “The ‘NAFTA trade corridors’ concept is a useful construct through which to examine, specifically, heavily used North American trade routes, to analyze the pressures and impacts generated by this trade traffic, and to discuss strategies that might absorb or alleviate that which cannot be absorbed currently or is projected to exceed the capacity of the corridor.”
The idea that existing interstate routes would not be able to handle the anticipated growth of NAFTA trade without major upgrades or fundamental redesigns was advanced by a 1998 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) study.
This study focused on the “I-35 Trade Corridor” and involved five states directly along the highway (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota), plus the adjoining state of Missouri.
This FHWA study motivated by the stated logic that I-35 would carry a greater percentage of trade among the NAFTA partners than any other interstate highway, simply because of the central position I-35 occupies in the continent.
Since 1994, when Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the heartland of America has become an increasingly important thoroughfare for trade among the United States, Mexico and Canada. I-35, which connects these three countries through the heartland, carries a greater percentage of trade among the NAFTA partners than any other U.S. Interstate Highway. Its multimodal transportation hubs – where air, rail, river and truck cargo converge – ideally position I-35 to be a major route for what’s expected to be increasing levels of international trade activity.
The published conclusion of this 1998 FHWA study did much to identify I-35 as the “NAFTA Superhighway.”
The 1998 FHWA argued convincingly that the existing I-35 infrastructure was inadequate to accommodate anticipated NAFTA freight volume increases.
The study cautioned, “Over the next few decades, about 65 percent of I-35 will require major upgrades, however, the entire route will have a continued need for rehabilitating pavements, resurfacing sections of the highway, and providing replacements of some bridge decks. Bridge substructures and superstructures will also need to be maintained, requiring repairs to maintain the integrity of the bridges.”
WND previously cited the 1998 FHWA report as providing a warning to Minnesota about bridge inadequacies along I-35, a warning evidently Minnesota did not take seriously enough to prevent the recent collapse of Bridge #9340 over the Mississippi River on I-35W.
To meet the deficiencies in I-35, the 1998 study recommended several alternative strategies to accommodate the anticipated volume of NAFTA freight.
The recommended strategies included widening I-35 by adding additional lanes, adding dedicated truck lanes in specified high-volume truck segments of the route, and implementing comprehensive Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technology throughout the corridor to assist in the management of traffic flow to avoid unnecessary congestion.
The declaration by the FHWA that the I-35 Trade Corridor would need major improvements and redesign to accommodate NAFTA freight gave rise to the idea that I-35 would need to be transformed into a “NAFTA Superhighway,” even though the FHWA did not give the route that specific designation.
The term was already being used by industry trade groups, as evidenced by the creation on July 23, 1997, of the still-operating NAFTA Superhighway Coalition, a not-for-profit corporation organized to support NAFTA trade in conjunction with the Ambassador Bridge.
By the end of the 1990s, transportation economists had widely identified that the increasing volume of NAFTA freight would be delivered in an “inter-modal” manner, meaning that containers arriving in ports could be transported by truck or train to regional warehouses, for ultimate truck transport to final local destinations throughout the continent.
Today, there is a solid consensus among transportation economists, trade organization officials, and government transportation planners that the majority of NAFTA and WTO freight in North America will for the foreseeable future be transported over land primarily by trucks, particularly heavy-duty diesel models.
The FHWA subsequently devoted a section of the agency’s website to tracking freight transportation, a site which documents that truck transportation of freight on U.S. interstates would doubled between 1998 and today, with the anticipation of doubling again, no later than by 2035.
Today, the professional transportation industry and government references to “NAFTA trade corridors” and “NAFTA superhighways” are too numerous to list. We will cite, however, a few of the references to make the point.
A website maintained by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and the Arkansas Department of Transportation proclaims that I-69 is a “proposed, new interstate highway that would connect Mexico and Canada. The general alignment passes through nine states: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan.”
The website goes on to note that, “I-69 may also be referred to as the ‘NAFTA Corridor’ or ‘NAFTA Superhighway’ as one of the project’s main goals [is] to increase both interstate and international trade among U.S., Mexican, and Canadian industries.”
The North American Forum on Integration (NAFI) identifies north-south “North American trade corridors” in four sectors: Pacific, West, East, and Atlantic.
NAFI names the following groups who are active in creating north-south continental NAFTA/WTO trade corridors:
- The International Mobility and Trade Corridor Project.
- CANAMEX Corridor Coalition.
- Central North American Trade Corridor Association.
- Ports to Plains Trade Corridor.
- I-95 Corridor Coalition
Then, to maintain their position, NAFTA Superhighway deniers end up writing self-contradictory prose.
Consider Christopher Hayes.
Writing in the current issue of The Nation, Hayes proclaims, “There’s no such thing as a proposed NAFTA Superhighway.”
Yet, only a few sentences later Hayes concedes, “And unlike the NAFTA highway, the Trans-Texas Corridor is very, very real.”
What’s the difference?
Then, we have North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc. (NASCO), writing on their website, “There are no plans to build a new NAFTA Superhighway – it exists today as I-35.”
Again, how can Tiffany Melvin, NASCO’s executive director, seriously maintain that there is any real distinction between a North American Super Corridor and a NAFTA Superhighway?
Still, as WND has repeatedly reported, the ranks of the NAFTA Superhighway deniers include top Bush administration officials, including Vice President Cheney and U.S. Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy Jeffrey Shane.
The agenda of the NAFTA Superhighway deniers appears to be to use semantics to lead the American public into ignoring the reality of the North American integration that is proceeding under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
We would be remiss not to note that Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor, part owner, and publisher of The Nation, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The CFR has issued a task force report entitled “Building a North American Community,” which has been described as a blueprint for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
But even Robert Pastor, one of the vice-chairs of the trilateral task force issuing that report, takes pains to argue that being for a North American Community, does not mean he embraces the idea of creating a North American Union.
If he were to be totally honest, Dr. Pastor would have to admit that he knows the European Community was a transitional state between economic agreements, such as the coal and steel agreement which began the process of European integration in 1957 and the Treaty of Maastricht which formed the European Union as a regional government in 1992.
Perhaps the NAFTA Superhighway deniers have simply taken a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook.
Clinton’s most memorable sentence in eight years as president involved denying he had sex with his White House intern, an argument he buttressed by insisting that the question depended upon “what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
Perhaps here we are faced with a similar situation.
Does it really all depend upon the meaning of “super” in the phrase “superhighway”?
Or, is the reality that “super corridor” is only more politically correct because the phrase neglects to include reference to NAFTA?