Guest column by Tiffany Melvin, executive director, NASCO
Have you heard the one about the U.S. government and transportation agencies secretly trying to lay the groundwork for a “NAFTA Superhighway,” and a North American Union with no borders between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico and one currency for everyone?
You may have heard that an organization called NASCO (North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition) has allegedly been working secretly to construct a “NAFTA Superhighway” from Mexico, through the United States to Canada, erase our borders and freely allow illegal immigrants and terrorists into our country. Plus, the group is allegedly working to get a Mexican customs facility built in the middle of the United States, which will be considered “sovereign Mexican soil.”
These allegations started with strident warnings from so-called “watchdog groups” and Internet alarmists and have, unfortunately, found their way into some mainstream media and campaign speeches.
It’s time to get down to reality. As executive director of NASCO, I want to set the record straight before the myths pushed on us by conspiracy buffs take over the facts. The subject of trade and transportation is much too important to leave to the uninformed. Here are the REAL facts:
NASCO is an advocacy group, not a government agency, and we don’t set transportation policy, build highways or set up customs facilities. We believe that our economy runs on trade and trade runs on transportation—they are eternally linked. As a tri-national, non-profit, trade and transportation coalition, we are committed to boosting economic activity while supporting needed infrastructure improvements, technological/security innovations and environmental initiatives within our mid-continent trade and transportation zone. We know these efforts will create job opportunities and enhance the well-being of workers, residents and consumers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The terms “NAFTA Superhighway” and “NASCO Corridor” have been confused in recent reports. The NASCO Corridor exists as the current infrastructure of Interstates 35, 29 and 94. There is no planned NAFTA Superhighway.
The Trans Texas Corridor 35 (TTC-35) is not the first leg of this so-called secret superhighway. Indeed, TTC-35 will carry a substantial volume of NAFTA trade in Texas, because it is designed to alleviate congestion and serve as a parallel work engine to existing I-35, which already carries a substantial volume of NAFTA trade. We do support the TTC-35, as it solves critical transportation problems for that state. We support the facilitation of any and all projects and ideas that further NASCO’s goal of increasing the efficiency and security of our supply chain.
The U.S. government is not funding this so-called NAFTA Superhighway. Since 1999, the federal government has directed more than $234 million in project funding towards the NASCO Corridor for current infrastructure improvements. In addition, the federal government has allocated $2.25 million directly to NASCO "for the development of a technology integration and tracking project." This is our NAFTRACS project in which we are working on technology solutions to improve the security and efficiency of trade across our borders.
Highways are only one element of the transportation needs up ahead. North American Inland Port Network (NAIPN) is a subcommittee of NASCO that advocates the interests of inland ports along the trade corridor and to develop logistics systems that enhance global security, but at the same time do not impede the cost-effective and efficient flow of goods.
Kansas City’s SmartPort is a NASCO member, and is not planning to have a Mexican Customs Office on “Mexican soil” that will bring in illegal immigrants. Kansas City plans to locate a Mexican Customs Office at the city's inland port, but it will handle outbound/southbound U.S. freight exclusively, not inbound, and it will not be leased to any Mexican government agency or be sovereign territory of Mexico.
NASCO does not encourage the elimination of international borders. NASCO’s efforts are designed to balance the need for increased security at our international borders with the continued need for efficiency and security of the supply chain.
As our trade increases and our transportation systems age, we must look at inland ports, technology innovations and integration, and private-sector funding to accelerate improvements to our transportation infrastructure. We need to be on the forefront of security technology to keep our borders safe and secure. We must look at the environmental impact of all transportation as we move forward. And we must coordinate to ensure that efforts are not duplicated and scarce federal resources are not being wasted.