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12/04/2006 08:06 PM
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American Free Press | December 4, 2006
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.”
wizard (OP)
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12/04/2006 08:48 PM
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your being sold out to the highest bidders stand up for your children and your own futures or they will keep selling us out if you don"t think this has been happening think back over the last 37 years look at out steel industry look at car manufactureing look at manufactureing period i remember made in the usa was something to be proud off
wizard (OP)
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12/04/2006 09:08 PM
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By Lou Dobbs
Adjust font size:
Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Victorious Democrats will, with the opening of the 110th Congress, have a historic opportunity to right the course of a country that has been hell-bent on permitting free-trade corporatists and faith-based economics to bankrupt the nation.

As the New Year approaches, newly elected Democrats in the House and Senate will be battered by calls, even demands, to stay the course, rather than right it. And we can only hope they and their new leadership in both houses will have the courage and character to be rationalists and realists and overcome their partisan political debt to corporate America, and U.S. multinationals in particular.

Eye-glazing stuff, international trade. But the consequences of faith-based free-trade will be eye-popping in the disaster it wreaks on our economy and working Americans. The facts are anything but dull: For 30 consecutive years the United States has run a trade deficit, and our trade deficit has surged to record highs in each of the past four years. Our monthly deficits have reached record levels in two of the past three months.

Our current account deficit -- the broadest measure of international trade -- is on track to approach $1 trillion this year. And our current account deficit is almost 7 percent of our nation's gross domestic product, considerably above the threshold at which Federal Reserve studies have acknowledged our economy must make policy adjustments or face major financial crisis. We're borrowing about $3 billion a day just to pay for our imports, and our trade debt now stands at $5 trillion.

We will no longer have to be patient to see the impact of these faith-based policies in free trade. Signs are already beginning to mount that a reckoning is nearing. Our trading partners in Europe are counseling "vigilance" in the currency markets, as their anxiety rises with the value of the Euro against the dollar. For the first time, the Chinese government is publicly expressing its concern about the more than $1 trillion it holds in reserves.

But most disturbing of all are the comments of new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who said in London Tuesday, "A strong dollar is clearly in our nation's interest and I feel very good today about the strength of the U.S. economy," as the U.S. dollar hit a 20-month low against the Euro. Treasury secretaries are not paid for their candor, but Paulson's rejection of our current reality won't bolster his credibility with either our trading partners or the new Democratic-led Congress.

The new Congressional leadership understands that, at least in part, their majority was won as a result of growing middle-class concerns over job insecurity, stagnant wages and disgust at a class of elites that has subordinated the well-being of our middle class to the dictates of corporate masters.

I hope they can acknowledge that so-called free trade has come at an inordinate cost to working men and women in this country. We've lost three million manufacturing jobs as a result of these so-called free trade agreements that enable corporate America to export plants, production and jobs to cheap foreign labor markets. Millions more American jobs remain at risk of being outsourced. And wages in industries where jobs are being created, on average, pay 21 percent lower than industries in which jobs are disappearing, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Amazingly, even our own top trade officials admit that U.S. free-trade policies aren't working. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab appears to understand the consequences of the past few administrations' free trade policies, but she's shown little willingness to shift that policy. Schwab said, "...Our trade deficits are too high. We can't...pretend that the trade imbalance can just keep getting bigger with no cost."

Ambassador Schwab's Deputy Trade Representative, Karan Bhatia, says outright, "From Chile to Singapore to Mexico, the history of our [Free Trade Agreements] is that bilateral trade surpluses of our trading partners go up."

And yet we persist with our historical ignorance, and we continue to enter poorly negotiated agreements that pose great threats to the U.S. economy and the middle class. NAFTA, for example: In 1993, we had a $9.1 billion total trade deficit with Mexico and Canada. Last year we ran a $128.2 billion deficit with our North American neighbors, and we're on pace to break that record again this year.

Instead of opening new markets to U.S. products and services, the U.S. government over the past 10 years has negotiated nothing more than a series of outsourcing agreements. Aside from agriculture, our trade representatives have consistently steered clear of negotiations with Western Europe and Japan. We'll never achieve a tangible reduction in our trade deficit without significant exports to those markets.

The new Democratic-led Congress will be called a lot of names by the devoted servants of corporate America and the U.S. multinationals who have no regard for the standard of living or quality of life for working Americans and their families. I hope that we'll be able to call this new Congress true reformers and servants of the people.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.