FOREIGN FIRM BIDS FOR CONTROL OF TEXAS FREE TRADE CORRIDOR
By Mark Anderson
American Free Press has learned that a group of foreign companies, which currently lease a toll road in Indiana and are looking at buying up other highways across the country, has its eyes on the Trans-Texas Corridor, or TTC. The TTC is a planned toll road system through the Lone Star State that will largely be used for trucking foreign merchandise into the United States on the wings of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
It will be a major leg of the so-called “NAFTA Superhighway,” and, according to watchdog groups, it will lead to more cheap goods flooding the country and will be devastating to the U.S.-based trucking industry.
In the April 17, 2006 edition, AFP reported that ITR Concessions LLC, a partnership of Cintra of Spain and the McQuarie Bank of Australia, spent $3.85 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road from the state for 75 years.
Now that same coalition is branching out into Texas. On Nov. 21, the Internet version of The Lone Star Iconoclast, a Crawford, Tex.-based publication, reported that Todd Spencer, the executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA, “is asking truckers to bypass the Indiana Toll Road that has been leased to the Spanish consortium, Cintra, the same outfit that Gov. [Rick] Perry and TXDOT (The Texas Department of Transportation) contracted with to operate the hated Trans Texas Corridor.”
According to Spencer, McQuarie will also be involved in the TTC. Steve Bonney, a Lafayette, Ind., farmer who helped fight this arrangement in Indiana courts, revealed then that some of that money would be used to extend Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to the Kentucky border. From there I-69 would proceed into south Texas by the Mexican border, eventually becoming yet another conduit in the vast network of “NAFTA tollways” being envisioned. Interstate 69 ends to the north in Port Huron, Mich., at the Canadian border.
An Oct. 26 OOIDA pre-election news bulletin noted, “Texas lawmakers made a very big mistake when they overwhelmingly voted in 2003 to move forward with Gov. Rick Perry’s plan for the Trans-Texas Corridor—they did it despite overwhelming public sentiment against the effort. The corridor
is an intermodal route that would cut across Texas from the Mexican border to Oklahoma and include toll lanes.”
Cintra is teaming up with Zachry, a San Antonio firm, for the project’s planning phase.
“The Associated Press released an analysis of a campaign ad . . . erroneously stating that Spain-based Cintra holds a 65% equity position in Cintra Zachry LP. That’s wrong. The correct equity position is 85% with Zachry Construction holding the small 15% equity balance, noted a report on Corridorwatch.org, a web site that is monitoring the growth of the NAFTA Superhighway.
Corridorwatch.org features a map on its web site that reveals various TTC segments that crisscross Texas.
Activist Sal Costello of People for Efficient Transportation, based in Austin, Tex., told AFP that while much of the Texas public is perhaps dimly aware of the TTC, the concept behind the TTC is becoming better known and opposition to it is increasing, especially since the Nov. 7 gubernatorial race.
In the lead-up to the election, three of the four candidates, particularly Independent Carol Strayhorn, opposed the TTC and made it one of their top campaign issues. Not surprisingly, incumbent Perry, who was reelected, did not mention the TTC. Despite this, the mainstream media throughout Texas largely ignored the issue.
Costello told AFP that officials would like Americans to believe that work has not commenced on the TTC. However, he said ground has actually been broken on the TTC. He pointed out that highway 130, a north-south segment that will stretch 49 miles when completed sometime in 2007, is already partially finished.
Costello also said that while some TTC sections represent new tollway construction, existing freeways already paid for with tax dollars are being converted into tollways. “It’s a combination of a land grab, which is the TTC, and a road grab, which is the conversion of our freeways,” he said.
Traditionally, motorists use tollways as an alternative to other taxpayer-financed interstates. However, if these Texas developments continue, Costello said, most drivers there will be forced to use tollways. Furthermore, voter-approved bond dollars for more traditional Texas transportation needs are being diverted into toll road plans.
The TTC is one of many planned routes for which land will have to be gobbled up to lay pavement, to run utility lines and to construct new railroad routes on the way to Kansas City, Mo., a major hub for these free trade conduits.
Even though Kansas City is some 1,000 miles away from the Southern border, it will function as a U.S. Customs inspection point. Activists believe it is likely that eminent domain land grabs will soar in the coming years as the project steams on. Texas was not among the states with eminent domain restrictions on the ballot Nov. 7.
Spencer noted the TTC will largely be used by truckers from Mexico, who will be transporting goods from Mexico, China and other nations where people work for slave wages.
“The Bush Administration is bending over backwards to accommodate Mexican trucks coming into the United States,” said Spencer. “Worldwide, trucks are the weapons of choice of terrorists. Nobody is going to check [what is really in that truck]. We evidently have a lot of people in the U.S. who have lost their minds.”
Spencer said Mexican truckers will be able to go anywhere once they cross the border. Since Mexico does not have stringent safety regulations, there is no way to verify the safety of Mexican trucks or drivers. He doubts that anyone will do background checks on drivers before they can enter the United States.
Spencer said the TTC will be devastating to domestic truckers and freight companies.
TXDOT wants to charge truckers 40 cents a mile to travel the TTC. “This is the equivalent of about $2.40 (per gallon) in just new fuel taxes,” said Spencer. “If gas were $2.60 a gallon, that would be equivalent to gas at $5 a gallon.”
Furthermore, an anti-competition clause in the Cintra contract reportedly prohibits Texas from making improvements to parallel routes. Therefore, highway users “will be forced to use the TTC toll roads even if Texas has to close down lanes on existing highways,” said Spencer.
Some whopper TTC routes may be one-quarter-mile wide, with up to six lanes, in each direction and room for utility lines and rail lines.
Spencer told AFP that international investors are drooling at the prospects of acquiring U.S. toll roads in 35 states, including in Pennsylvania where State Rep. Rick Geist of the House Transportation Committee plans early in 2007 to introduce House Bill 1 to sell or lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the highest bidder. Spencer said the terms “sell” and “lease” are synonymous when it comes to toll road deals, since many agreements last for 75 years or longer.
“This is the latest Wall Street craze,” Spencer said. In Illinois, elected officials have been resisting a proposed toll bridge, largely funded by foreign investors, over the Mississippi River from Illinois to St. Louis, Mo. Spencer thinks Illinois officials will be lobbied hard to change their minds.
“Goldman Sachs made more than $20 million on the Indiana Toll Road deal,” Spencer told AFP. “This is U.S. transportation policy coming right from the White House—sell our roads.”
American Free Press reporter Mark Anderson can be reached at [email protected] Watch future AFP issues for more on America’s welcome acceptance of biofuels and other energy alternatives, helping end our gluttonous addiction to foreign petroleum.
(Issue 49 & 50, December 4 & 11, 2006)