Congress has designated 43 U.S. highways "High Priority Corridors," making them eligible to receive an appropriated $700 million in seed money for "coordinated planning, design, and construction of corridors of national significance, economic growth, and international or interregional trade."
Fourteen corridors were included in one of the largest public works bills in American history, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) which was signed into law on June 9, 1998, by President Clinton. Other corridors were identified in the1995 National Highway Designation Act and national highway legislation from 1991 (ISTEA). Also, a related "Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program" was authorized in TEA-21 to "improve the safe movement of people and goods at or across the border between the United States and Canada, and the border between the United States and Mexico."
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Any increase in commercial vehicle traffic volume "at border stations or ports of entry in each State and in the State as a whole" as well as increased "international truck borne commodities" resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among other criteria are funding qualifiers according to the statute. Accepted uses for the money include, "Identification of any impediments to the development and construction of the corridor, including any environmental, social, political, and economic objections."
A major international trade corridor and example of what's in store is the I-35/I-94/I-29 Corridor. The 1,500-mile roadway extends from Laredo, Texas, the busiest U.S. border crossing into Mexico, to Duluth, Minnesota. When queried, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation was quick to point out to WorldNetDaily that statutory language does not include the word "International" when it designated the highways "High Priority Corridors."
However, the non-profit public-private lobbying group North America's Superhighway Coalition (NASCO) makes no bones about the international nature of the corridors. A section of NASCO's website, "Driving the Superhighway" is laced with praise for the international concept. For example: "A trip down the International Trade Corridor passes through some forward-thinking communities with innovative leadership and enterprising businesses. Along the route, are citizens who truly have grasped the concepts of globalization and are capitalizing on its benefits."
NASCO works closely with the NAFTA "Harmonization Committee" or land transport subcommittee created by the treaty. NASCO seeks to "promote full NAFTA implementation" and "focus on environmental issues." The powerful lobbying group "teams federal and state authorities with private business to promote the establishment of a network of 'international trade corridors' that will facilitate the movement of people and goods throughout the nations of Canada, United States, and Mexico." NASCO's Ken Miller told WorldNetDaily: "An 'international trade corridor' (as we define it) is an interstate or series of interstates that links border crossings and countries. These facilities also cooperate with other modes of transportation ... like rail hubs and airports ... to provide efficient movement of people and goods."
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NASCO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Treasury to work to develop International Trade Processing Centers (ITPCs) along the I-35 International Trade Corridor. Miller explained, "The ITPCs fit in because these facilities can enhance efficiency by processing international freight at a location that isn't bogged down with congestion. Of course, new technologies must continue to be developed ... and new laws and modes of operation developed ... and the political will must be there to facilitate this dream of more efficient and safe international movement of people and goods."
The ITPCs should also provide in major urban areas along the corridor "International banking and financing, Customs brokers/Freight forwarders, Foreign trade zone, World trade center, U.S. Federal inspection agencies, and Transportation-related industrial development." In addition, in 1997 NASCO signed an MOU with the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Texas General Land Office "to develop a cooperative program to create alternative fuel re-fueling centers along the corridor to reduce pollution."
Another memo was created by NASCO and transportation representatives from eight states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota), several metropolitan planning organizations and the Canadian province of Manitoba, the Detroit International Bridge Company/Canadian Transit Company, along with invitations to Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana to "discuss possible cooperative efforts" in which the first step "was to develop a comprehensive, multinational Intelligent Transportation Systems for Commercial Vehicle Operations (ITS/CVO) coordination plan for the corridor."
According to the DOT, special emphasis is placed in TEA-21 on deployment of
"Intelligent Transportation Systems" (ITS)
"to help improve operations and management of transportation systems and vehicle safety." The dual focus is on intelligent infrastructure and intelligent vehicles featuring electronic toll taking and vehicle surveillance using cameras, sensors, vehicle modems and satellite technology. The recent proposal by the White House to institute a three-digit 911 style national phone number for motorists to call for weather and road conditions is part of an effort to sell the public on ITS. According to a White House statement: "The number would utilize and significantly advance the Department of Transportation's fast-growing 'intelligent transportation infrastructure system,' already equipped to assist some 45 states and cities in providing traveler information" The technology is already being instituted in varying degrees by states and localities to the dismay of the administration which wants a nationalized system. The ITS website laments that ITS infrastructure is instituted "in a narrowly focused, piecemeal fashion. These individual applications of ITS technologies are actually fragmenting our transportation networks instead of serving as a bridge to a new era. ..."
According to Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) trade corridor newsletters, The I-35 (Corridor 23) strategy will possibly include relief routes, acquiring the right of way for as many as 12 lanes including double decking, encouraging urban areas to take public transit, creating an international rail route parallel to I-35, increasing the size and weight regulations for trucks, including a NAFTA truck-way lane devoted exclusively to trucks in certain segments, improving the clearance process at the borders, and the use of emerging ITS technologies "to more effectively monitor and manage the flow of traffic." MODOT says further, "...using the latest technology in traffic sensing and response, we'll be able to help motorists navigate our roadways with tools they never had before."
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Chris Gerner, who hosts a satellite radio program called Amerikan Expose, which is also broadcast on Republic Radio International via the Internet and short-wave, has devoted most of his show in past months to calling attention to the NAFTA corridors and sovereignty concerns. He features links on his website to further information about the corridors. Gerner regularly features local Missouri and Oklahoma citizens who badger their respective highway departments for more information and relay the information on the air.