MAP-21: Congress-Obama Expand NAFTA Superhighway Trade Corridor and Toll Road System

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Some have tried to con­vince the pub­lic that the Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor and NAFTA Super­high­ways are dead, nev­er exist­ed or are even a myth. Yet, Con­gress recent­ly passed a new, two-year fed­er­al high­way bill called Mov­ing Ahead for Progress in the 21st Cen­tu­ry (MAP-21) that not only gives pri­or­i­ty fund­ing to these ‘high pri­or­i­ty’ trade cor­ri­dors, but also makes it eas­i­er to hand them over to pri­vate mul­ti-nation­al cor­po­ra­tions using con­tro­ver­sial pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (P3) con­tract arrange­ments that pro­mote and enhance the tolling of Amer­i­ca at the taxpayer’s expense.

On June 29, Con­gress vot­ed to pass the House-Sen­ate Con­fer­ence Report and on July 6, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed MAP-21 into law. As with most bills these days, Con­gress had to pass MAP-21 in order for us to know and bet­ter under­stand what’s in it. But even then, the law­mak­ers in Con­gress don’t make it easy to fig­ure out the mean­ing of the leg­isla­tive lan­guage used in their bills.  MAP-21 is no excep­tion, as with many of its trans­porta­tion reau­tho­riza­tion pre­de­ces­sors – the obscure and arcane word­ing being used can, like a can­cer, become a silent killer – in this case a mul­ti­fac­eted NATION KILLER – by increas­ing our $15 tril­lion debt and mov­ing our nation ever clos­er to North Amer­i­can eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal integration.

MAP-21 spends, in just over two years, what will take ten years to pay for in tax rev­enue.  Con­gress vot­ed for a trans­porta­tion bill that leg­is­lates a gen­er­al fund trans­fer and raids Wyoming’s Aban­doned Mine Land trust fund of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars. At this rate, the Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office (CBO) fore­casts that the High­way Trust Fund will run short of mon­ey by 2015.  This mas­sive over­spend­ing aban­dons the pay-as-you-go sys­tem set up by the fuel pump gas tax.

The pay-as-you-go sys­tem to finance high­way main­te­nance and con­struc­tion was sound­ly estab­lished under Pres­i­dent Eisen­how­er in 1956 – but that endeav­or had earned pop­u­lar sup­port and was wide­ly debat­ed in Con­gress.  There has been no such pub­lic aware­ness let alone pop­u­lar sup­port nor pub­lic debate of the NAFTA Super­high­way.  In fact, leg­is­la­tors and respec­tive admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials either feign igno­rance or claim it doesn’t exist fear­ing polit­i­cal upheaval once they admit to it hav­ing got­ten its start as the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment was being nego­ti­at­ed with Cana­da and Mex­i­co in 1990.  But sub­se­quent approval of NAFTA, in and of itself, didn’t give Con­gress even implic­it author­i­ty to qui­et­ly estab­lish a North Amer­i­can super­high­way trade cor­ri­dor sys­tem, with­out pub­lic notice or debate.  But that’s exact­ly what’s hap­pened over the past 20 years.

The fact that America’s polit­i­cal elite – the House and Sen­ate Demo­c­rat and Repub­li­can lead­er­ship over the years, as well as suc­ces­sive pres­i­dents of the Unit­ed States, have qui­et­ly advanced the NAFTA Super­high­way Trade Cor­ri­dor and Toll Road Sys­tem, under the radar, using peri­od­ic trans­porta­tion reau­tho­riza­tion bills as ‘Tro­jan Hors­es’ to fur­ther eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion among the U.S., Cana­da and Mex­i­co, slow­ly robs the Unit­ed States of its sov­er­eign­ty and inde­pen­dence, where it becomes near­ly impos­si­ble for ordi­nary cit­i­zens to take any notice.  The stan­dard line the politi­cians and spe­cial inter­ests – big busi­ness and big labor – give to ‘We the peo­ple’ has become an all too famil­iar refrain such as high­way safe­ty, alle­vi­at­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion and main­tain­ing roads and bridges that are falling apart all around us.

In the House, the MAP-21 con­fer­ence report passed over­whelm­ing­ly with only 52  Repub­li­cans opposed to it.  While in the Sen­ate, only 19 vot­ed against it – all Repub­li­cans.  Not a sin­gle Demo­c­rat opposed the bill that advances three key NAFTA trade cor­ri­dors, includ­ing TTC-69/I‑69, CANAMEX and Ports-to-Plains.

The state of Texas is the focal point – the main thruway for Chi­na from the Pacif­ic Ports of Mex­i­co for the NAFTA Super­high­way Trade Cor­ri­dor and Toll Road Sys­tem, accom­mo­dat­ing sev­en (7) of the 12 major NAFTA cor­ri­dors, uti­liz­ing three key points-of-entry at the Texas-Mex­i­co bor­der cross­ings and fan­ning out across the coun­try, includ­ing El Paso (Camino Real and Spir­it), Pre­sidio (La Entra­da) and Lare­do (Ports-to-Plains, TTC-35/I‑35, Gulf Cres­cent and TTC-69/I‑69).

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 adverse 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. 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.

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 Open Bor­ders from the deep water port, Lazaro Car­de­nas, in Mex­i­co, into the inte­ri­or of the U.S. and up into Canada.

Tex­ans imme­di­ate­ly real­ized the threat to state sov­er­eign­ty and pri­vate prop­er­ty rights. They had a vis­cer­al reac­tion to hav­ing their land forcibly seized by the gov­ern­ment through emi­nent domain and hand­ed over to a for­eign enti­ty, in this case Spain-based toll giant, Cin­tra. The more they learned, the less there was to like.

NAFTA Super­high­ways revived

So though TxDOT announced it was pulling the plug on TTC-35 in 2009 due to strong per­sis­tent pub­lic oppo­si­tion, it scaled back the remain­ing cor­ri­dors and re-named the Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor to the ‘Inno­v­a­tive Con­nec­tiv­i­ty Plan.’ The Fed­er­al High­way Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial­ly con­clud­ed the TTC-35 project in August of 2010 by issu­ing a ‘No Action’ Record of Deci­sion. How­ev­er, Per­ry has con­tin­ued to aggres­sive­ly push a P3 pro­gram in Texas despite the pub­lic oppo­si­tion and the expi­ra­tion of P3 con­tracts in 2009, with only a few more excep­tions grant­ed dur­ing the 82nd leg­is­la­ture in 2011 – hence the P3s in Dal­las-Fort Worth (DFW). Almost con­cur­rent­ly, the leg­is­la­ture removed the entire TTC chap­ter from the Texas Trans­porta­tion Code in the same session.

Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor resurrected?

Right before MAP-21 gained pas­sage, TxDOT released a Request for Infor­ma­tion (RFI) on June 22 regard­ing the SH 130 toll­way, the only stretch of the Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor TTC-35 to ever be built, seek­ing infor­ma­tion from poten­tial devel­op­ers to build ‘ancil­lary facil­i­ties’ along SH 130 that could include gas sta­tions, restau­rants, hotels, and rest area devel­op­ment with­in the high­way’s right of way.

It’s appar­ent that TxDOT is get­ting into the land devel­op­ment busi­ness. This con­cept is iden­ti­cal to the Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor. How­ev­er, Sec­tion 228.053 of the Texas Trans­porta­tion Code still gives the Depart­ment the author­i­ty to “con­tract with a per­son for the use of part of a toll project or sys­tem or lease part of a toll project or sys­tem for a gas sta­tion, garage, store, hotel, restau­rant, rail­road tracks, util­i­ties, and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions facil­i­ties and equip­ment and set the terms for the use or lease.”

Leas­ing out the public’s right-of-way is hor­rif­ic abuse of emi­nent domain that cre­ates a monop­o­lis­tic cash cow for a sin­gle devel­op­er and the state of Texas. Why shouldn’t the orig­i­nal landown­ers be afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op that land instead of the state? How can oth­er facil­i­ties (gas sta­tions, etc.) off the toll road remain finan­cial­ly viable when there is a monop­oly con­trolled by the state and a sin­gle devel­op­er actu­al­ly locat­ed on the toll­way itself?

NAFTA cor­ri­dors get spe­cial treatment

So, for a time, Tex­ans thought they were final­ly res­cued from the Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor, think­ing that if these trade cor­ri­dors ever got built, it would be done as an exist­ing free Inter­state of old – not these new-fan­gled ‘inno­v­a­tive financ­ing’ P3s that com­pro­mise the public’s sov­er­eign­ty over these crit­i­cal arter­ies. Then, on June 22, TxDOT announced its inten­tion to lease out the public’s right-of-way any­way, just like the Trans-Texas Cor­ri­dor was going to do, and on June 29, Con­gress passed MAP-21.

The three pro­posed NAFTA inter­na­tion­al trade cor­ri­dors that con­nect with Mex­i­co and Cana­da that are of pri­ma­ry inter­est in MAP-21 are: TTC-69/I‑69 (from Lare­do, Texas to Port Huron, Michi­gan), CANAMEX (from Ari­zona to Mon­tana), and Ports-to-Plains (from Lare­do to North Dako­ta). Three par­tic­u­lar sec­tions of the bill specif­i­cal­ly advance these cor­ri­dors. Sev­er­al addi­tion­al sec­tions pri­or­i­tize them through sec­ondary means.

Sec­tion 1116 enti­tled ‘Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of Projects to Improve Freight Move­ment,’ grants up to 95% fed­er­al fund­ing for projects that improve the move­ment of freight. The bill also offi­cial­ly estab­lish­es a nation­al freight pro­gram with a goal to ‘strength­en the con­tri­bu­tion of the nation­al freight net­work to the eco­nom­ic com­pet­i­tive­ness of the Unit­ed States.’ The Ports-to-Plains Alliance heav­i­ly lob­bied for these spe­cial freight pro­grams. Both pro­grams will shift funds away from oth­er state and nation­al pri­or­i­ties and the needs of indi­vid­ual dri­vers, and essen­tial­ly give them to pri­vate com­pa­nies who move freight, includ­ing exclu­sive truck lanes.

In SECTION 1104, Sec. 103(C )(iii) under the Nation­al High­way Sys­tem, it states: “High­ways on the Inter­state Sys­tem shall be locat­ed so as…to the max­i­mum extent prac­ti­ca­ble, to con­nect at suit­able bor­der points with routes of con­ti­nen­tal impor­tance in Cana­da and Mexico.”

Again the empha­sis is being put on cre­at­ing sur­face trans­porta­tion con­nec­tions between the three North Amer­i­can coun­tries of Cana­da, the Unit­ed States, and Mex­i­co, as yet anoth­er move clos­er toward the eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion of the three coun­tries in keep­ing with NAFTA.

The legal lan­guage here can­not be glossed over. “To the max­i­mum extent prac­ti­ca­ble” car­ries with it a strong man­date to pri­or­i­tize these trade cor­ri­dors over oth­er nation­al pri­or­i­ties for ordi­nary Amer­i­cans. Mak­ing the Unit­ed States more inter­de­pen­dent with oth­er coun­tries rather than a SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT NATION, while ship­ping more Amer­i­can jobs over­seas, can hard­ly be con­sid­ered a legit­i­mate nation­al priority.

Also in SECTION 1104, it specif­i­cal­ly makes two key des­ig­na­tions: one for TTC-69/I‑69 and the oth­er for I‑11 also known as CANAMEX. One of the hang-ups for I‑69 was the fact that it would not imme­di­ate­ly inter­sect an exist­ing Inter­state high­way. So, the seg­ments under con­struc­tion in the Rio Grande Val­ley could not be offi­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed as I‑69 unless the rules changed. MAP-21 removes this require­ment, specif­i­cal­ly for I‑69, and says it does not have to inter­sect an exist­ing Inter­state for 25 years.

In a let­ter to House lead­ers in May, ten Ari­zona and Neva­da mem­bers of Con­gress urged sup­port of the I‑11 des­ig­na­tion to com­plete the miss­ing link con­nect­ing Phoenix to Las Vegas in the all-Inter­state CANAMEX inter­na­tion­al trade cor­ri­dor from the Mex­i­can bor­der of Ari­zona to the Cana­di­an bor­der in Montana.

The law­mak­ers made the con­nec­tion clear, stat­ing: “The com­ple­tion of this cor­ri­dor would pro­vide total com­merce con­nec­tiv­i­ty between the Unit­ed States, Mex­i­co and Cana­da in the inter­moun­tain west, which is vital to the con­tin­ued eco­nom­ic growth of the region.”

Though in the past this des­ig­na­tion would guar­an­tee fed­er­al fund­ing, the restruc­tur­ing of the nation­al high­way sys­tem gives the states more dis­cre­tion with those funds. But there are oth­er mech­a­nisms in MAP-21 to get these cor­ri­dors spe­cial funding.

Pana­ma Canal expansion

With two of the three MAP-21 NAFTA super­high­way trade cor­ri­dors locat­ed in Texas, law­mak­ers on the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee held a hear­ing in May on the Pana­ma Canal expan­sion and the com­ing trade tsuna­mi through Texas.

Accord­ing to tes­ti­mo­ny at the hear­ing, Tim Welch, Chair­man of Trans­porta­tion Excel­lence for the 21st Cen­tu­ry, says Texas is not ready. Anoth­er expert tes­ti­fied that Texas needs an addi­tion­al $1‑to-$3.5 bil­lion in fund­ing to pre­pare its roads and rail trans­porta­tion sys­tems for the super con­tain­ers head­ed our way. But why should tax­pay­ers foot the bill to ease the flow of goods and boost prof­its for mul­ti-nation­al glob­al companies?

In addi­tion, TxDOT released an announce­ment on May 21 that it’s formed a Pana­ma Canal Stake­hold­er Work­ing Group pri­mar­i­ly com­prised of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing, port, logis­tics, oil and gas, truck­ing, and rail indus­tries. “This Stake­hold­er Group,” said Bill Mead­ows, Texas Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion­er, “will focus on enhanc­ing and facil­i­tat­ing the flow of goods through and on our sys­tem, which does not stop at our ports but con­tin­ues through our major cor­ri­dors such as I‑35 and I‑69.”

Both I‑35 and I‑69 are major NAFTA Super­high­way trade corridors.

SECTION 1120 enti­tled ‘Projects of Nation­al and Region­al Sig­nif­i­cance’ fur­ther facil­i­tates and even funds the NAFTA projects, but also pri­or­i­tizes improv­ing “road­ways vital to nation­al ener­gy secu­ri­ty.” Ener­gy relates direct­ly to the Ports-to-Plains trade cor­ri­dor, since one of its goals under the Secu­ri­ty and Pros­per­i­ty Part­ner­ship (SPP) of 2005 is to move uneco­nom­i­cal wind pow­er from West Texas around the state as well as to trans­port ethanol around the country.

While ener­gy secu­ri­ty may be in the nation­al inter­est, tak­ing thou­sands of acres of pri­vate prop­er­ty for mas­sive inter­na­tion­al trade cor­ri­dors is not the most pru­dent way to secure it. For if the gov­ern­ment can come in and steal your land for the ben­e­fit of anoth­er pri­vate par­ty, Amer­i­cans’ per­son­al wealth and lib­er­ties are stolen along with it.

The Amer­i­can diplo­mat dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, Arthur Lee said it best: “The right of pri­vate prop­er­ty is the guardian of every oth­er right…and to deprive a peo­ple of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty.”

When a high­way project receives the con­gres­sion­al des­ig­na­tion as a project of nation­al and region­al sig­nif­i­cance, it’s enti­tled to receive up to $500 mil­lion in fed­er­al funds to devel­op and con­struct it. Every NAFTA cor­ri­dor will most assured­ly receive this designation.

In anoth­er sec­tion of MAP-21, SECTION 1304, labeled ‘Inno­v­a­tive Project Deliv­ery Meth­ods,’ a project can receive up to 100% of the fed­er­al share in this cat­e­go­ry on a project that uses so-called inno­v­a­tive “financ­ing, or con­tract­ing meth­ods” and if it “accel­er­ates project deliv­ery.” 

P3s are con­sid­ered inno­v­a­tive financ­ing, and though pol­i­cy­mak­ers know it costs tax­pay­ers more to pri­va­tize a pub­lic road, they claim the abil­i­ty to accel­er­ate the project that wouldn’t oth­er­wise have enough fund­ing jus­ti­fies their actions. While a P3 project is not like­ly to receive 100% fed­er­al fund­ing (why would the gov­ern­ment sell-off our pub­lic roads to a pri­vate enti­ty if the project is already paid for with tax mon­ey?), these pri­vate con­sor­tiums are sharks and solic­it as much in fed­er­al and state sub­si­dies as the politi­cians will allow them to get away with in order to ‘social­ize’ their losses.

Not one P3 project in Texas has been 100% fund­ed by the pri­vate for­eign enti­ty. In one case, the tax­pay­ers brought three-quar­ters of the project cost to the table and the pri­vate enti­ty, Cin­tra, a mere one-quar­ter. So this notion that the risk gets trans­ferred from the tax­pay­ers to the pri­vate enti­ty is patent­ly FALSE.

In Texas, there is an egre­gious exam­ple of the ‘State’ pur­su­ing a P3 for a man­aged toll lane project on US High­way 183 in DFW that would be 100% paid for by $1.3 bil­lion in tax­pay­er mon­ey, yet TxDOT is still hand­ing it over to a pri­vate enti­ty to become their toll col­lec­tor and to main­tain the road. The State can get away with charg­ing far high­er toll rates when they can out­source the sticky busi­ness of tax­a­tion to a pri­vate toll col­lec­tion cor­po­ra­tion. With the changes in MAP-21, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is encour­ag­ing such pub­lic sub­si­dies, too. MAP-21 helps legal­ize the THEFT of pub­lic assets.

So there are many fed­er­al fund­ing sources embed­ded in MAP-21 to qui­et­ly get the NAFTA cor­ri­dors built under the radar and out-of-sight of pub­lic scrutiny.

Adding tolls galore with­out a pub­lic hearing

SECTION 1316, gives the states the abil­i­ty to add toll ‘man­aged lanes’ with­in the exist­ing right- of-way of a road with­out ANY envi­ron­men­tal review, which also hap­pens to be the mech­a­nism that trig­gers a PUBLIC HEARING. As a result, under MAP-21, a state high­way depart­ment can lit­er­al­ly come in and impose unlim­it­ed miles of high­way toll lanes, HOV or HOT lanes, ded­i­cat­ed bus lanes, truck lanes, even pri­va­tiz­ing the toll lanes using a P3, you name it, with­out ANY study of the eco­nom­ic, trav­el, or safe­ty impacts and with­out a pub­lic hearing.

MAP-21 grants gov­ern­ment enti­ties cart blanche for the tolling of Amer­i­ca – lit­er­al­ly high­way rob­bery. Since vir­tu­al­ly all toll projects, whether pub­lic or pri­vate, now require non-com­pete agree­ments that pro­hib­it or lim­it expan­sion of free routes sur­round­ing toll projects, vir­tu­al­ly every Amer­i­can will be sub­ject­ed to con­stant imped­i­ments to our free­dom to trav­el either by being forced to pay or be per­ma­nent­ly rel­e­gat­ed to ham­pered mobil­i­ty and congestion.

This sec­tion alone is one of the most dam­ag­ing pro­vi­sions in MAP-21. It elim­i­nates trans­paren­cy and com­plete­ly strips out ANY pub­lic account­abil­i­ty and allows un-elect­ed, total­i­tar­i­an state high­way depart­ments, like TxDOT, to impose unlim­it­ed toll-tax­es at will. YOUR FREEDOM TO TRAVEL HAS JUST BEEN TAKEN PRISONER.

Slush fund for both pub­lic & pri­vate toll projects

The Trans­porta­tion Infra­struc­ture Finance and Inno­va­tion Act (TIFIA), the fed­er­al direct loan and loan guar­an­tee pro­gram, will be expand­ed under MAP-21 by near­ly ten times from $100 mil­lion, even­tu­al­ly up to $1 bil­lion a year. What used to be a com­pet­i­tive pro­gram has now been trans­formed into easy cred­it for any project, with spe­cial empha­sis giv­en to freight move­ment, i.e. the NAFTA trade cor­ri­dors. The Ports-to-Plains Alliance lob­bied hard for and got spe­cial reduced TIFIA inter­est rates for rur­al cor­ri­dors like Ports-to-Plains.

Tax­pay­er-backed TIFIA loans can also go to direct­ly fund a pri­vate facil­i­ty, if the pri­vate facil­i­ty pro­vides a “pub­lic ben­e­fit for high­way users by way of direct freight inter­change between high­way and rail car­ri­ers,” anoth­er boon for freight-inten­sive NAFTA trade corridors.

There is no ded­i­cat­ed tax rev­enue that funds the TIFIA pro­gram (unlike the High­way Trust Fund which is large­ly fund­ed by fuel pump gas tax rev­enues), so it’s pri­mar­i­ly going to be fund­ed through yet more fed­er­al bor­row­ing of mon­ey we don’t have – DEBT. TIFIA can also raid pen­sions or oth­er gov­ern­ment plans to cap­i­tal­ize the fund, which is scary con­sid­er­ing retirees depend on this mon­ey and the first project to ever receive a TIFIA loan went BANKRUPT – a P3 toll project in San Diego called the South Bay Express­way declared bank­rupt­cy in less than three years after open­ing. The traf­fic pro­jec­tions were off by near­ly 40,000 cars a day. The tax­pay­ers took near­ly an $80 mil­lion loss on that TIFIA loan. This can hard­ly be con­sid­ered a suc­cess­ful pro­gram, yet Con­gress has just increased it almost ten­fold and made it even eas­i­er for pri­vate enti­ties to get TIFIA loans. The South Bay Express­way also hap­pens to be the south­ern­most seg­ment of Cal­i­for­nia Route 125, or the south­ern leg of yet anoth­er major trade cor­ri­dor from British Colum­bia, Cana­da to Baja, Mex­i­co – oth­er­wise referred to as BC to Baja.

The TIFIA pro­gram has become a polit­i­cal slush fund to finance P3s where pri­vate toll oper­a­tors can eas­i­ly snag pub­lic mon­ey to sub­si­dize their loss­es on projects that have no busi­ness being built in the first place. Con­gress lets them exploit tax­pay­ers this way by hid­ing behind the broad term ‘pub­lic ben­e­fit.’  I call it cor­rup­tion – pure and simple.

Aside from the oth­er ‘inno­v­a­tive finance’ give­aways in MAP-21, Con­gress adopt­ed Sen­ate pro­vi­sions to give even greater tax breaks to pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions –  think P3s –  by allow­ing them to depre­ci­ate PUBLIC assets, our pub­lic high­ways, up to 45 years (instead of 12–20 years).

With all these so-called incen­tives, des­ig­na­tions, and fund­ing mech­a­nisms in place, the NAFTA Super­high­way Trade Cor­ri­dor and Toll Road Sys­tem is clear­ly alive and well and in the process of becom­ing real­i­ty soon­er rather than lat­er. Cou­pled with the severe­ly relaxed envi­ron­men­tal review excep­tions that give state DOTs unlim­it­ed author­i­ty to do ANYTHING they want with­in exist­ing rights-of-way, deprives cit­i­zens of the oppor­tu­ni­ty for PUBLIC HEARINGS.

Amer­i­cans will be very hard-pressed to find ways to stop it.


Ter­ri Hall is the founder of Tex­ans Unit­ing for Reform and Free­dom (TURF), which defends against emi­nent domain abuse and pro­motes non-toll trans­porta­tion solu­tions.  She’s a home school moth­er of eight turned cit­i­zen activist.  Ms. Hall is also a con­trib­u­tor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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