OK-SAFE, Inc. – See the post below from our friend Terri Hall of Texas TURF.
At issue is the resurgence of the Trans-Texas Corridor, sometimes referred to as the NAFTA Superhighway, and the promotion of triple P’s – Public-Private Partnerships.
Some have tried to convince the public that the Trans Texas Corridor and NAFTA Superhighways are dead. But Congress recently passed a new, two-year federal highway bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (or MAP-21), that not only gives priority funding to these ‘high priority’ trade corridors, it also makes it easier to hand them over to private corporations using controversial public private partnership (P3) toll contracts.
On July 6, President Barack Obama signed MAP-21 into law. As with most bills these days, Congress had to pass it in order for us to know what’s in it. Only the committee members, conferees, and lobbyists had the access to know precisely what was in it, and big business, big energy, and various and sundry special interests got just what they wanted — including state highway departments that got the environmental rules so relaxed, they can literally add toll lanes to any highway without so much as a public hearing or ANY study of the impacts, so long as it’s within the existing right of way.
Does it have-ta be NAFTA?
Americans have seen their jobs exported for two decades, and many argue NAFTA is what started the downward spiral. Though most high tech jobs have gone to Asia, U.S. manufacturing got outsourced to Mexico, and eventually to China, too. Even American agriculture is feeling the effects of NAFTA. You can drive through the San Joaquin Valley in California even now and see signs along what used to be a booming farm community criticizing Senator Barbara Boxer for using arcane environmental policy to destroy farmers’ ability to grow food in order to quietly enforce NAFTA’s import/export mandates.
Ditto for the Mexican trucking program that drew loud U.S. protests during the Bush Administration from truckers and those concerned with non-English reading drivers, smuggling, and illegal immigration, which Obama quietly approved in March 2011.
In June 2011, the Texas Legislature repealed the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), a 4,000 mile network of multi-modal toll roads, toll rail, toll truck lanes, as well as tolled utilities, telecommunications, and pipelines of all sorts — that would all fall under the control of a private, foreign corporation for a half century. It was the most ambitious plan proposed of the NAFTA superhighways. The TTC would be gigantic, 1,200 feet wide, which is like four football fields end to end. Dubbed the biggest land grab in Texas history, it would be near impossible to traverse across or drive cattle or school buses under it, since the developer only had to build overpasses where it intersected existing interstates.
On the first leg, there would have been only 4 exits through the entire state of Texas and it would have displaced one million Texans. Since the developer also got the exclusive rights to the land surrounding the toll and railways, it would be granted a state-sanctioned monopoly and the ability to charge concession fees and choose all the gas stations, hotels, and restaurants on this captive audience revenue-generating corridor. So the TTC would have effectively bisected whole communities, crushed economic development along the remaining private property adjacent to the tollway, as well as cut-off access to huge parcels of farmers and ranchers’ land, rendering the parcels virtually useless.
The driving force behind Texas Governor Rick Perry’s ambitious plan was foreign trade — to accommodate the influx of what was initially thought to be goods from Mexico, but that soon got supplanted by even cheaper goods from China. The TTC’s primary purpose was to facilitate the free flow of people and goods across the border from the deep water port, Lazaro Cardenas, in Mexico into the interior of the U.S. and up into Canada.
Threat to sovereignty and freedom to travel
Texans immediately realized the threat to state sovereignty and property rights. They had a visceral reaction to having their land forcibly seized through eminent domain and handed to a foreign entity, Spain-based toll giant, Cintra. The more they learned, the less there was to like.
A fairly new financing and development agreement for the time, a P3, would be the primary procurement method for the TTC, and it was all negotiated in secret. Neither the press nor the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott were allowed to see it. Abbott had to sue the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) just to get it released.
The financial guts of the contract were still withheld until the eleventh hour prior to Perry’s re-election in 2006, under threat of yet another lawsuit — this time by property rights advocates. Texans discovered these P3 contracts included profit guarantees and non-compete agreements as well as financial incentives to manipulate speed limits to slow down the free routes and enhance speeds on the tollway. The non-compete clauses prohibit or penalize the state for the expansion of free alternative routes in order to ensure congestion on the free lanes and force more drivers to pay the toll.
Rest of article Examiner dot com.