Jeffrey N. Shane, undersecretary for DOT

Congressmen and a policy official of the Department of Transportation engaged in a spirited exchange over whether NAFTA Super Highways were a threat to U.S. sovereignty or an imaginary “Internet conspiracy,” such as the “black helicopter myths,” advanced by fringe lunatics.

At a meeting Wednesday of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Jeffrey N. Shane, undersecretary of transportation for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, testified.

During the questioning by committee members, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, asked Shane about the existence of plans for a “NAFTA superhighway.”

Shane responded he was “not familiar with any plan at all, related to NAFTA or cross-border traffic.”

After further questioning by Poe, Shane stated reports of NAFTA superhighways or corridors were “an urban legend.”

At this, the chairman, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., questioned aloud whether Shane was just “gaming semantics” when responding to Poe’s question.

“Mr. Shane was either blissfully ignorant or he may have been less than candid with the committee,” Poe told WND in a telephone interview.

Asked about the Department of Transportation’s work with Dallas-based trade group NASCO, the North American SuperCorridor Coalition Inc., and the Texas Department of Transportation plans to build the Trans-Texas Corridor, Poe told WND “the NAFTA superhighway plans exist to move goods from Mexico through the United States to Canada. It appears to be another one of the open-border philosophies that chips away at American sovereignty, all in the name of so-called trade.”

Poe said there are security obstacles to the project that must be addressed.

“I don’t understand why the federal government isn’t getting public input on this,” he said. “We get comments like Mr. Shane’s instead of our own government asking the people of the United States what they think about all of this. This big business coming through Mexico may not be good business for the United States.”

Poe continued to insist “the public ought to make this decision, especially the states that are affected, such as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and all the way through up to Canada. The public needs to make input on this. So, I don’t understand, unless there’s some other motive, why the public isn’t being told about these plans and why the public is not invited to make input.”

Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., introduced House Concurrent Resolution 40 earlier this week to express the sense of Congress that the United States should not build a NAFTA superhighway system and should not enter into an agreement with Mexico and Canada to form a North American Union.

Asked to comment on Shane’s response to Poe, Goode dismissed Shane’s claim that NAFTA superhighways were just another “urban legend.”

“Let’s take Mr. Shane at his word. Let Mr. Shane come over here from the Department of Transportation and endorse House Concurrent Resolution 40,” he said. “If, in his mind he’s not doing anything to promote a NAFTA superhighway and he’s not doing anything to promote the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, then he won’t mind joining his voice with ours to be in opposition to any such ‘urban legend,’ as he so calls it.”

Goode added this comment in a playful retort to Shane’s attempt to dismiss the discussion: “My prediction is Mr. Shane will run for the timber.”

In a serious tone, Goode objected to Shane’s attempt to play what he agreed was a game of semantics.

“When President Bush had the meeting in Waco, Texas, the three leaders called the new arrangement the ‘Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America,’ SPP for short,” Goode said. “But, as is suggested by Congressman DeFazio at the hearing, the intent of people like Mr. Shane is to use different words and different names as a way to deflect attention from what they are really doing.”

Asked about White House Press Secretary Snow’s denial that there was any White House plan to create a North American Union, Goode’s reply also was direct.

“I guess Mr. Snow is saying that a Security and Prosperity Partnership and a North American Union are not one and the same,” he said. “That’s just the use of his words, but is he denying that President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Martin had the meeting and came up with the Security and Prosperity Partnership in 2005? I doubt it.”

Also present in the audience at the subcommittee meeting was Rod Nofzinger, director of Government Affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Nofzinger told WND Shane’s denial struck him as less than genuine. In an e-mail to WND, Nofzinger commented:

“Considering what we know about the Bush administration’s efforts to open the border to Mexican trucks and that DOT officials have met with groups such as NASCO, I was truly surprised to hear Mr. Shane say flat out that he had no knowledge of plans or meetings related to NAFTA or cross-border surface trade corridors.”

Substantiating Nofzinger’s argument is a speech Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta gave April 30, 2004, at a NASCO forum in Fort Worth, Texas. Mineta told the NASCO meeting:

“NAFTA has opened the doors to expanding and flourishing trade across our borders. Since its implementation, total U.S. trade with Mexico has increased almost 200 percent – with 70 percent of the U.S./Mexico trade passing through Texas.

“There are, however, some things that we still need to do in the United States to fulfill our obligations under the NAFTA treaty. One of them is to finally open the market between Mexico and the United States for trucking and busing.”

Mineta continued:

“And to our friends from Mexico who are here today, I say, ‘Welcome, and get ready.’ Opening the border is of mutual benefit.”

Specifically referring to Interstate Highways 35, 29 and 94 – the core highways supported by NASCO as a prime “North American Super Corridor” – Mineta commented:

“You also recognized that the success of the NAFTA relationship depends on mobility – on the movement of people, of products, and of capital across borders.

“The people in this room have vision. Thinking ahead, thinking long-term, you began to make aggressive plans to develop the NASCO trade corridor – this vital artery in our national transportation through which so much of our NAFTA traffic flows.

“It flows across our nation’s busiest southern border crossing in Laredo; over North America’s busiest commercial crossing, the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit; and through Duluth, and Pembina, North Dakota, and all the places in between.”

In a statement provided WND by e-mail, DeFazio cut past Shane’s attempt to dismiss the subject by ridicule, writing:

In the hearing, Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy Jeff Shane, in response to a question from Representative Ted Poe, said the NAFTA superhighway was an urban legend. Whatever the case, it is a fact that highway capacity is growing to and from the border to facilitate trade, and there is no doubt that the volume of imports from Mexico has soared since NAFTA, straining security at the U.S. border. Plans of Asian trading powers to divert cargo from U.S. ports like Los Angeles to ports in Mexico will only put added pressure on border inspectors. The U.S. needs to invest in better border security, including enhanced screening of cargo crossing our land borders.

Shane declined to comment for this article.

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