NAFTA superhighway underway in South Texas

I-69 through Texas will follow US 59 from Texarkana down through Houston and eventually south from Victoria to the valley. The valley will split off into three trunks: I-69W from US 59 to Laredo, I-69C on US 281 to McAllen, and I-69E from US 77 from Victoria to Corpus Christi and eventually to Brownsville.

By Terri Hall | July 2, 2013

While there’s been much political angling and wrangling over whether or not the famed legacy project of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), is dead or alive, the evidence points to it being alive and well and back underway throughout Texas. The Trans-Texas Corridor is the Texas portion of the NAFTA Superhighway Trade Corridor and Toll Road System. These NAFTA superhighways, often called high priority corridors, were incrementally approved by Congress in the nineties. Two such corridors in Texas, Ports-to-Plains and I-69, are now advancing.

Last July, I wrote in a detailed analysis in this publication how Congress passed the two-year federal highway bill called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) that prioritized funding for three major NAFTA corridors, including two in Texas. All three trade corridors were designed to feed into Mexico’s Pacific coast ports.

At its May meeting, the Texas Transportation Commission approved $11.2 million in funds to expand US 87 in Dawson County from the city of Lamesa south to the border of Martin County. Just a few months prior to this allocation, the Commission approved another $17 million widening project on Texas 349 between Lamesa and Midland. These projects are part of the Ports-to-Plains TTC corridor headed south into Texas from Colorado, mostly as incremental upgrades to existing highways.

I-69, the still unfinished north-south segment of America’s Interstate highway system is about to be revived as a NAFTA Superhighway. Although called I-69, it will become ‘The’ hallmark NAFTA trade corridor – toll roads and all – stretching from Laredo, Texas to Port Huron, Michigan connecting Mexico’s Pacific coast ports to Canada’s Great Lakes and beyond, while effectively erasing our nation’s borders with Mexico when completed.

In addition, over the past several years, the Commission has granted funds for interstate-grade improvements to 100 miles of highways in the Rio Grande Valley as part of the TTC corridor known as I-69. US 77 and US 281 have seen upgrades and the Federal Highway Administration approved the installation of signage formally designating these stretches of highway as I-69 by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The interstate upgrades to US 83 will be designated I-2, but the stretch is considered a key connector to official I-69 legs in the valley, according to Alliance for I-69.

I-69 through Texas will follow US 59 from Texarkana down through Houston and eventually south from Victoria to the valley. The valley will split off into three trunks: I-69W from US 59 to Laredo, I-69C on US 281 to McAllen, and I-69E from US 77 from Victoria to Corpus Christi and eventually to Brownsville. While Loop 20 also intersects I-35 (the major TTC NAFTA superhighway) it will connect I-69W with Mexico through Laredo’s World Trade International Bridge. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration describes the World Trade Bridge Crossing in Laredo as “the most important truck crossing on the United States/Mexican border…and the Laredo crossing alone represents over 60% of the truck traffic crossing the border between Texas and Mexico.” (Read NAFTA trade traffic.)

In 2009, the Commission announced it was pulling the plug on the TTC-69 new corridor alignment and pursuing upgrades to existing corridors to implement I-69, primarily to US 59. In 2011, the Texas legislature formally repealed the Trans-Texas Corridor statute. However, these incremental upgrades are slowly transforming Texas roads into a network of superhighways for global trade without using the toxic Trans-Texas Corridor brand.

The legislature’s approval of limited public-private-partnerships (or P3s – the financing mechanism of the TTC) also keep the TTC alive with Loop 9 (part of TTC-35) in southern Dallas through Rockwall County being the latest of the formerly known TTC corridors to gain approval for a P3 in a law that took effect in June.

Texans vehemently rejected the TTC vision of a 4,000-mile network of multi-modal trade corridors operated by private, foreign toll operators in half-century-long P3s, which would have confiscated over 500,000 acres of private property. Though these stretches of I-69 are free interstate highways, the possibility of a tolled US 59/I-69 through the heart of Houston is still a looming possibility. The expansion and completion of Grand Parkway (State Highway 99) around Houston is underway, which is also a major connector to the I-69 trade route.

These high priority corridors became the pathways to global trade when NAFTA came on the scene in the 1990s. With the expansion of the Panama Canal by the Chinese government coming online in 2014, Texas, as the trans-continental transportation hub, is strategically positioned to become the gateway to ushering cheap Chinese goods into the United States at alarming new levels. This is the ‘congestion’ these trade superhighways seek to address – not the congestion created by the daily commute of ordinary American citizens.

TxDOT and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) are also seeking tolled upgrades to another portion of US 281 in San Antonio. Though US 281 in San Antonio doesn’t follow the I-69 alignment, it eventually goes all the way up to the Canadian border and could serve as yet another NAFTA trade corridor when the coming tidal wave of Chinese goods begins to flood Texas highways.

Though trade may be the primary driver to building these corridors, those concerned with America’s porous borders believe these superhighways will also facilitate the free flow of people, not all of them legal, across virtually open borders as well, posing a serious national security threat.

No matter how you slice it or name it, the NAFTA superhighways are slowly becoming a reality. When local, state, and federal governments along with a host of special interests who stand to financially benefit from global trade, team up to hire a massive network of lobbyists to foist these trade corridors upon the American people at taxpayers’ expense, it’s easy to see why it’s proved so hard to stop. That’s why it’s now time for Texans and all patriotic Americans across the land to take a stand against this arrogant push by the governing elite at creeping globalization that will only end in economic integration and a North American Union with Canada and Mexico, not unlike the socialist European Union.

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.