Evidence of increasing international trade truck traffic on Interstate 35 through Minnesota raises concerns that NAFTA Superhighway traffic contributed to last week’s collapse of the freeway bridge in Minneapolis.

President George W. Bush, aboard Marine One, takes an aerial survey of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007

WND has unearthed a Federal Highway Administration report dating back to 1998 that warned increasing NAFTA truck traffic was expected to create a safety concern with bridges in states along the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway, including Minnesota.

The study concluded that, “The I-35 Corridor’s multimodal transportation hubs – where air, rail, river, and truck cargo converge – make I-35 ideally positioned to be a major route for what is expected to be increasing levels of international trade activity.”

The study warned that, “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.”

The FHWA study was conducted in conjunction with the Departments of Transportation in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota, and assessed I-35 from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn.

A comprehensive study of freight traffic conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, shows conclusively a large percentage of the freight carried through Minnesota is carried by truck.

FHWA data show that in 2002, a total of 280.7 million tons of freight moved through Minnesota, 86 percent of which was carried by truck.

The trend line shows dramatic increases projected, with freight traffic through Minnesota expected to double by 2035, to a total of 551.5 million tons, of which 88 percent will be carried by truck.

The bridge collapsed at rush hour, with an estimated 100-150 cars and trucks on the structure in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Officials in Minnesota had been warned since 1990 that the bridge was “structurally deficient” and severely fatigued from the increasing volume of traffic the bridge, which spans the Mississippi River along Interstate 35, was receiving.

North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc. (NASCO), a Dallas-based trade association, also designates I-35 as a NAFTA Superhighway.

NASCO’s website states, “There are no plans to build a new NAFTA Superhighway – it exists today as I-35.”

The original 2005 NASCO website opened with a graphic map of I-35 that highlighted in yellow the continental nature of the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway, illustrating clearly the highway’s links into Mexico and Canada.

NASCO’s original map highlighted the I-35 corridor from Mexico to Canada

WND has previously reported the Minnesota Department of Transportation joined NASCO as a member in 2006, after a heavy lobbying campaign launched by NASCO executive director Tiffany Melvin.

As fully documented on the Texas Department of Transportation website, the department plans to build a new Trans-Texas Corridor parallel to Interstate 35, and NASCO has yet to repudiate these new superhighway construction plans.

The debate whether or not to build a new TTC-like NAFTA Superhighway parallel to I-35 or to repair and rebuild I-35 to accommodate NAFTA and other global trade traffic required by 2025 and beyond, including projections of international truck and train freight travel, is now being debated by the states north of I-35.

As WND has reported, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has repudiated his signing in 2004 of a document described as “The Declaration of North American Integration.”

Cornett told WND he was opposed to the creation of a North American Union or the extension of TTC-35 into Oklahoma, “if the whole point is to make it cheaper to transport containers from China coming through Mexican ports.”

WND has also reported Oklahoma House Speaker Lance Cargill has invited to Oklahoma Robert Poole, a prominent expert advising states to build toll roads as “public-private partnerships,” complete with financing from private investment consortia seeking long-term operating leases on the new highways once completed, according to the Trans-Texas Corridor model.

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