Saturday, June 2, 2007

NASCO - NORTH AMERICA’S SUPERCORRIDOR COALITION, INC and its role in changing Texas and US Transportation Law

By Faith Chatham= crossposted on Texas Kaos, Daily Kos and Burnt Orange Report
Governor Rick Perry has used campaign contributions from his Texans for Rick Perry committee to fly to Istanbul, Turkey, today to address the secret Bilderberg Conference, “a meeting of about 130 international leaders in business, media and politics.” Read more:
Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, international leaders met at the Worthington Hotel in a NASCO conference hosted by TxDOT, Tarrant County, The City of Fort Worth and NASCO. Several leaders of the NCTCOG RTC are board members of NASCO.

For more than 12 years North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO) and its members have stood at the forefront of driving public and private sectors to unite to address strategically critical national and international trade, transportation, security and environmental issues.
Our focus is on maximizing the efficiency of our existing transportation infrastructure to support international trade. We recognize the extraordinary implications for our nation’s long-term economic prosperity of our transport system’s ability to sustain that growth.
NASCO, a non-profit group initially founded in 1994 as the I-35 Corridor Coalition, represents member cities, counties, states, provinces and private sector members devoted to maximizing the efficiency and operations of the existing U.S. Interstate Highways 35/29/94 (the NASCO SuperCorridor) and the intermodal inland ports NASCO has inspired to sprout along them. Never
have our efforts been more needed or been more urgent.

They site projected growth as justification:

As U.S. Federal Highway Administrators and state road association leaders clearly understand, the U.S., in general, and our Corridor through its heartland in particular, face daunting challenges in adapting to absorb the coming tsunami of burgeoning cargo freight tonnage. U.S. studies forecast national freight tonnage to increase nearly 70 percent by 2020. General cargo tonnage is projected to more than double, with some key freight gateways expected to see a tripling in freight volumes between 1998 and 2020.

Despite evidence that America now exports more raw material than finished goods and imports most finished goods, they write:
As the demand for freight transportation grows, so will its overall contribution to the nation’s economy and its challenges to highway capacity, congestion and the local environments. In 1970, international trade represented just 12 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 2000, trade surged to 25% of U.S. GDP. U.S. economists, however, expect trade to leap to 35% or more of U.S. GDP by 2020.

They acknowledge their role:
From almost immediately after the Jan. 1, 1994 entry into effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), NASCO has sought out and backed Corridor-related initiatives to enhance border security, safety and the operational efficiency of the existing transportation infrastructure.

This is something that they nailed!

NAFTA’s reduction of import tariffs and trade barriers in North America powerfully stimulated trade that strengthened the economies of its partner nations.

However, this statement is rather controversial:
Rather than the great fears of NAFTA job losses of 1994, today, in the U.S. and in NASCO Corridor states, net job creation and net employment have grown to and stayed at or near historical highs. Since NAFTA took effect, total U.S. employment grew to 136 million, up from 112 million then, with U.S. unemployment dropping to today’s 4.5 percent of the work force (a five-year low), from 6.6 percent then out of work, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics for the period.

They fail to mention that the growth is in low paying jobs and the loss is in skilled high paying jobs!

NASCO uses the term "SuperCorridor" to demonstrate we are more than just a highway
coalition. NASCO works to develop key relationships along the EXISTING corridors we
represent to maximize economic development opportunities for all affected by the flows.
NASCO’s reach helps coordinate the development of technology integration projects, inland ports, environmental initiatives, university research, and the sharing of "best practices" across North America. NASCO’s forte is in spurring coordination of efforts by local, state and federal agencies and the private sector to integrate and secure a multimodal transportation system along the existing NASCO Corridor.As of late, there have been many media references to a "new, proposed NAFTA Superhighway.”

They have been really skilled at identifying "stakeholders", "change agents" and "opinion leaders" among local city and county elected officials and incorporating them into their organization. They also have encourged cities and universities to join and share in the financing of their lobby efforts.

Little consideration is given to the direct conflict of interest of the elected official serving on the NASCO board. Although he can no longer render "fair and impartial consideration to issues coming before the body he is county commission or city councils he /she is elected to, because as an officer or board member in NASCO, he has a stake in forwarding the goals and objectives of NASCO, he usually squeeks through because he is serving on the board of an organization which is supported financially by his city or county government!

While NASCO and the cities, counties, states and provinces along our existing Interstate Highways 35/29/94 (the NASCO Corridor) have referred for years to I-35 and key branches as 'the NAFTA Superhighway,' the reference solely acknowledged and recognized I-35’s major role in carrying a remarkable portion of international trade with Mexico, the United States and Canada. In actual fact, there are no plans to build “a new NAFTA Superhighway.” It already exists today as I-35 and branches.

They aren't referring to the citizen-taxpayer when they refer to "our people":

A decade ago, NAFTA captured the headlines of international trade. But today international trade is global trade. It requires even bolder and more aggressive efforts by our organization and our leaders to meet the challenges and to extract maximum economic benefit for our people from exploding global trade.

Here they list the players who are lined up to benefit from these massive infastructure private public partnerships:
For more than a decade, NASCO has encouraged the boldest thinking on adoption of trade processing systems, logistics systems and information technology. Eighty percent of NASCO members have 10 years of active service.

To me, this is the classic statement in their entire website:
The subject of trade and transportation is much too important to leave to the uninformed.

Seems like they are saying that taxpayers and citizens who object to their schemes are just too dumb to understand their big picture!

They continue:
Here are the REAL facts:
In the 21st century, the U.S economy increasingly runs on trade and our trade runs on
transportation. Trade and the transportation facilities that sustain it are tied together. Future economic growth and job creation in the U.S. require a constant effort to enhance our business climate, environment and transportation infrastructure to sustain our world-class leadership in world trade. NASCO’s aim is to continuously, diligently upgrade the efficiency and security of our transportation systems to sharply increase the efficiency of our transportation infrastructure on the Corridor to drive down the cost of doing business and enhance our ability to do international trade in the central U.S. Our future quality of life and prosperity depend upon ever-greater efficiencies and competitiveness enhancements in the heartland of North America.
In reality, greater moves toward oversight, inspection, regulation and enforcement of each of the three countries' national laws are leading to a strengthening of national sovereignty in each of the three countries.

Talk about stuff that could come out of the tail end of a far from constipated elephant! Do they really expect people to buy that???

They are clear about some of their objectives:
* NASCO advocates for balancing increased border security and trade and
transportation efficiency.
* NASCO exists to facilitate solutions to trade and transportation challenges and to
stimulate economic development, job creation and prosperity.
* NASCO is a nonprofit advocacy group, not a government agency. NASCO does not
set transportation policy, build highways or set up customs facilities.
* NASCO is not building or encouraging the creation of ‘a NAFTA Superhighway.’
I-35 and key crossing interstates already exist and have been described as ‘a
NAFTA Superhighway’ due to the loads they bear since the 1994 passage of
NAFTA. They require attention to support future growth and trade.
* NASCO does not encourage the elimination of international borders.
* NASCO does not focus on or have any intent to effect Federal immigration policy

Read more

Federal Legislation Overview:
For over ten years, NASCO has been developing a strong coalition of cities, counties, states, Canadian provinces, and private sector companies to lobby for federal funding and promote a "SuperCorridor" to address the transportation, trade and security needs of the three NAFTA nations.

We have succeeded in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the NASCO I-35 Corridor, resulting in High Priority Corridor status for I-35 in 1995 under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). In addition, we successfully lobbied for the creation of two new categories under the Transportation Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) – the National Corridor Planning & Development Program and the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program.

They state:

The NASCO "SuperCorridor Caucus" was formed on Capitol Hill to promote corridor development and to help secure NASCO legislative initiatives in both the authorization and appropriation processes.

We continue to be recognized as the strongest International Trade Corridor Coalition on Capitol Hill, and we are the only Corridor Coalition with true international representation from the three NAFTA nations.

They actively:
Support for Multi-state International Corridor Development Program

North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc. supports the Multi-state International Corridor Development Program in S. 1072

NASCO supports Sec. 1825, the Multi-state International Corridor Development Program, new language initiated by NASCO, authorized in 2004’s Senate passed version of S. 1072, the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2004” and asks the House to consider supporting this language in their bill or to accept the language in conference.

They explain:
This program would develop international trade corridors to facilitate the movement of freight from international ports of entry and inland ports through and to the interior of the United States. NASCO supports the Senate language regarding selection criteria for corridors including:

Must have Significant levels or increases in truck and traffic volume relating to international freight movement [NASCO truck traffic has increased 42.6 percent from 1996 to 2001 ]

Connection to at least 1 International Terminus or inland port [NASCO has an international terminus in Laredo/Nuevo Laredo; Manitoba; and Windsor, Ontario and serves 3 inland ports including Detroit; Laredo and Pembina, N.D.]

Corridor must traverse at least three states;[NASCO traverses 11 states including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois ] and

Identified by Section 115 (c) of the Intermodal Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-240; 105 Stat. 2032) [NASCO is High Priority Corridor #23]


NASCO supports the Senate proposed program because it would provide a solution to the over subscribed “Cor Bor” program by creating a separate, dedicated program for a small number of true international trade corridors that meet the proposed criteria. It would provide the opportunity for significant and targeted infrastructure improvements along these most important trade corridors resulting in tremendous economic benefits for communities along these corridors and for the nation as a whole.
However, the Senate passed language did not authorize funding for this program and without it this program cannot realize its potential. Therefore, NASCO respectfully requests that the provision be granted sufficient funding. In a 1996 study done for NASCO, it was estimated that the corridor needed $2 billion per year in infrastructure improvements over an 18-year period. NASCO supports as high a funding level as possible for the Multi-state International Corridor Development Program to operate as intended.

Read more

Conference in Fort Worth May 30-June 1, 2007 Hosted by NASCO, Tarrant County, City of Fort Worth and TxDot.

Board members of NASCO include NCTCOG RTC Chairwoman, Cynthia White of Denton County, City of Denton Mayor Pro Tem PETE KAMP, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, (NCTCOG Executive Board Member and leading member of the RTC), TxDOT Deputy Director Steven E. Simmons (who implements and manages TxDOT policies and programs), Dallas attorney Rider Scott, (who has also served as co-counsel to the Texas Attorney General on certain local highway condemnation projects under special arrangement), Blake Hastings (Executive Director for Free Trade Alliance San Antonio, a non-profit organization dedicated to making San Antonio a center of trade in the Americas), Alliance developer Russell Laughlin, Bell County Commissioner Tim Brown, and Coby Chase, Director, Government and Business Enterprises Division
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Coby's career highlights include steering TxDOT TxDOT’s participation in the 103rd through 109th sessions of the United States Congress and through the 74th through 79th sessions of the Texas Legislature (sessions where more of the Texas Transportation code was changed than had been enacted in 4 decades!). Coby Chase's resume continues: Succeeded in bringing new flexibility, better financing options, and strengthened funding formulas to the Texas transportation system in the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Represented the state’s interests in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21), ensuring highway-user fees would be spent for transportation, and securing increased annual federal funding for Texas, and Worked during the 78th and 79th Session of the Texas Legislature to help deliver HB 3588 and HB 2702, which completely altered the methods used to deliver infrastructure in Texas and are national legislative models for the next generation of transportation development.

(House Bill 2588 and HB 2702 are referred to at the CDA/TTC enabling legislation).
Several other board members had ties with the Kansas City Smart Port and Kansas City de Mexico (NAFTA) Railroad.

For the complete list of board members and their resumes click here.

Are they effective? Definitely.
They have succeeded in getting state and federal transportation code changed to allow exercise of eminent domain for private development and profit. They have succeeded in getting "valuation" language inserted into key legislative initiatives. They have succeeded in infiltrating local and county governmental bodies who oversee RTCs with their board members. They have succeed in getting legislation passed in the Texas Legislature which transfers control of state highway funds from Legislative appropriations oversight to RTCs in the form of "surplus toll revenue" and toll road concession fees.
They have succeeded in eliminating many of the advantages to the public of toll projects.

They discuss passenger rail and traffic congestion but their focus is totally on moving freight. They work to achieve their object by siphoning off funding from commuter transportation projects and prioritizing freight moving corridors. They work to insure that private citizens pay the cost for developing improved transportation corridors for moving freight.

In the DFW area, many of the transportation projects are PILOT PROGRAMS breaking ground with public private partnerships, valuation, and utilization of special federal governmental tax free bond programs for private business entities (such as Cintra) who bid on and secure state highway toll contracts.

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