By Mark Anderson
AFP is continually monitoring the proposed North American Union. This not only involves the dynamics surrounding the “border fence” issue; it also involves watching the efforts of “NAFTA Superhighway” profiteers to install small “piecemeal” infrastructure projects, even while opponents throw legislative roadblocks in front of the much larger, more obvious stretches of super-tollways that are part of the proposed international highway scheme that could consolidate the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Such a three-part union must have an international mega-tollway network for even more free trade, a common currency and other physical and political tangibles—not just policy papers and books written by people like American University professor Robert Pastor that call for a “North American Community.”
Much of the Trans-Texas Corridor part of the NAFTA Superhighway—whose two main branches are TTC-69 and TTC-35—has been set back by vigilant citizens. They worked overtime in the spring of 2009 shadowing their state legislators and getting them to oppose the TTC plan that could carve up many large Texas ranches held by the same families for generations. But some smaller highway projects that seem to fit into the TTC schematic indeed have taken root.
An especially notable project is the State Highway 130 tollway around Austin, Tex., which is so devoid of motorists at times that a plane landed on it during “peak traffic” and did not have to be rushed out of the way, although transportation crews closed part of the tollway for a time once they reached the scene. The pilot, 24-year-old Lindsey Moreland, told investigators she took off from an airstrip at Austin-Bergstrom Airport and was headed to Georgetown when she had engine trouble. SH 130 was closed while crews moved the single engine Cessna to the shoulder of the southbound lane. At 4:30 p.m. the highway was shut down again so the plane’s owner could take off and fly to Temple.
An Aug. 17 Austin American-Statesman article included the sub-headline “New section will offer less congested route to Houston.” But “less congested” is a major understatement when traffic is sparse enough for a pilot to land there during peak time. Thus, will SH 130 fail like another under-used private Texas toll route (Camino-Columbia) near Laredo that went belly-up?
Citing the Austin newspaper piece, the San Antonio Toll Party (SATP) activist group, which has helped slow the TTC onslaught over several years, issued a news bulletin that commented: “This article bills this leg of the Trans Texas Corridor/TTC-35 project as a way to avoid congestion to Houston when the original sales pitch for the loop was to relieve traffic on I-35 (which the segment from Georgetown to the airport has not done). However, the first leg of SH 130 . . . is ‘sooo’ empty, that a plane landed on it during peak traffic. It begs the question: if no one can afford [to drive on it], then why build it?”
A major aspect of this development, according to SATP, is that SH 130—though not completely finished but is partly operational—is the first Texas road under foreign control if and when new sections are added. It is slated to remain under that control for the next 50 years.
A consortium called SH 130 Concession Co., led by private Spanish toll road operator Cintra—partnering with the huge San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Co.—is financing the $1.35 billion project. It will operate the toll road and hopes to profit from it over the next 50 years.
Noting the NAFTA connection, Wikipedia’s listing for SH 130 describes it as follows: “A tollway from Interstate 35 (I-35) in Georgetown to U.S. 183 and SH 45 at Mustang Ridge. Portions south of Mustang Ridge will soon be under construction. When completed, SH 130 will run in an 89-mile corridor east and south of Austin. It parallels I-35 and is intended to relieve the Interstate’s traffic volume through the Austin-San Antonio corridor by serving as an alternate route. The northern terminus of State Highway 130 is I-35 north of Georgetown. Its eventual southern terminus is Interstate 10 near Seguin. The highway was developed in response to the tremendous surge in truck traffic on the I-35 corridor brought on by the North American Free Trade Agreement during the late 1990s, especially truck traffic originating from Laredo, where the Texas Department of Transportation reported 150 trucks entering the United States every hour.” SH 130 will eventually be six lanes. Ground was first broken for SH 130 on Oct. 3, 2003.
On June 28, 2006, Cintra-Zachry, the Trans-Texas Corridor developer, reached a $1.3 billion agreement with the state to build segments 5 and 6 from U.S. 183 to I-10 in Seguin.
“In exchange for their investment, Cintra-Zachry will receive the right to collect tolls for 50 years in a revenue sharing agreement with the state. The state will own the road while the developer will be responsible for financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance over the life of the agreement,” Wikipedia also noted, confirming what critics are saying about decades of foreign control.