Friday, August 12, 2011

Rick Perry's NAFTA Superhighway Problem

Move over Mitt Romney. Rick Perry has a bigger problem to defend from his tenure as governor. Remember the NAFTA Superhighway project? It was to consist of a two-mile wide $184 billion transit system of toll roads, rail lines and utilities from the Texas-Mexico border all the way up to the Minnesota-Canadian border, to make it easier to ship foreign goods from China and other countries into North America. It became so unpopular in Texas that the Texas portion of it, called the Trans-Texas Corridor, was renamed and mostly disbanded a couple of years ago. Perry was the only gubernatorial candidate in 2006 of four major candidates who supported it. Even the Democratic candidate opposed it.
Perry’s campaign website lists the Trans-Texas Corridor as one of his accomplishments, “Rather than taking decades to expand these important corridors a little bit at a time, Governor Perry developed the Trans-Texas Corridor plan.”But is it something Perry really wants broadcast as an achievement? The Texas Republican Party’s 2010 platform includes a plank specifically opposing the Trans-Texas Corridor. Some of the opposition to the NAFTA Superhighway has been dismissed as conspiratorial, but loud objections also came from people concerned with border security and one million rural interests and farmers that stood to lose their land to eminent domain.
Construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor began in 2007. Perry received substantial campaign contributions from the companies expected to benefit from the construction, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transport and Zachry Construction Company. Cintra is a Spanish-owned company that would own the toll roads. This arrangement has been accused of being a hidden tax payable to a foreign corporation. Zachry was selected by the Texas Department of Transportation to construct the Trans-Texas Corridor. Perry initially opposed efforts by the Texas legislature to impede the construction, vetoing several bills. As opposition increased, the legislature was finally able to repeal the section of the Transportation code dealing with the Trans-Texas Corridor and pass an eminent domain bill protecting property. The TTC-35 project, a privately built multi-lane toll road, railway and utility line network that was to run parallel to Interstate Highway 35, was canceled. Perry finally backed down in the 2010 Republican primary for governor running against Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and opposed construction of the TTC-35.

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