The Bush administration announced Monday it is granting $66.2 million to reduce congestion and improve freight flow on several so-called NAFTA highways.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is allocating the money so it can work with state and local governments and the private sector on six interstate highways, with projects including the addition of bypasses and trucks-only lanes. Five of those highways connect to or run near the Mexican or Canadian borders:
Interstate 15, which runs from San Diego through part of northwest Arizona all the way to the Canadian border. Interstate 10, which runs near the Mexican border from California through Arizona to Florida. Intestates 95, which runs from Florida through the northeastern U.S. to Canada. Interstate 5, which runs from the California-Mexico border through Oregon to the Washington-Canada border. Interstate 69, which free-trade backers hope to turn into a NAFTA superhighway, connecting an existing freeway between Indianapolis and Canada to a proposed highway running south into Texas and splitting to connect with Mexican border crossings at Laredo, Brownsville and McAllen.
The only nonborder highway getting grant money from the Bush administration is Interstate 70, which runs mostly through the Midwest.
The USDOT said Monday the money will be used to study transport options, such as bypasses of major cities and trucks-only lanes.
Supporters say improving such routes will enhance North American trade and commerce. Critics worry that such border-to-border corridors will make it easier for foreign goods to get into the U.S. unchecked and that increased truck traffic will damage animal habitats and air quality.
"These routes are unlikely to alleviate congestion for the long term and will result in further habitat fragmentation and degradation, as well as increased air pollution in areas in or near the proposed expansions and especially where they propose new roads," said Sandy Bahr, state coordinator for the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group.