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    Texas' Mega Highway

    Plans for massive new road network generate hope and suspicion

    Perhaps no other emerging mega region is generating as much political friction as the Texas Triangle. It's not concerns over sprawl or environmental issues that overhang the TXT, but something much thornier--the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC).

    From the standpoint of regional development and integration, the TTC promises many benefits by adding massive amounts of transportation bandwidth for ground travel through two main projects. The first is TTC-35, which will parallel the existing I-35, and extend 800 miles from the Rio Grande Valley to north of Dallas/Fort Worth. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, today 45 percent of all Texans, 9.5 million, live along the I-35, and that number is projected to increase to 15 million by 2025.

    As envisioned, TTC-35 (map) will include as many as six lanes for passenger vehicles and up to four lanes for large trucks. The corridor will also have up to six rail lines for high-speed passenger rail between cities, high-speed freight, and conventional commuter and freight transit. Furthermore, planners are suggesting that the route can accommodate a 200-foot-wide dedicated utility zone for water, oil, and gas pipelines, and transmission lines for electricity, broadband, and other telecommunications services.

    Such a massive logistics artery running through central Texas would have a huge impact. Establishment of TTC-35 is widely seen as the catalyst needed to make a combined San Antonio-Austin metroplex a reality. Furthermore, the TTC would have a large impact on international trade as most U.S. imports from Mexico and South America travel through Texas, as do most exports to Mexico and South America--estimated at 79 percent.

    A similar route is planned called I-69/TTC (map). It would be part of the 1,600 mile-long I-69 national highway that would connect Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. The Texas leg of I-69 would run from the Mexico border to Houston and then on to northeast Texas.

    Although TTC is pitched as a unmitigated good for Texas, it has become a hot-button issue for many Texans and other Americans. Among the many wrongs projected to come from the TTC project is a rather ominous theory that the so-called NAFTA Superhighway is a linchpin in the creation of a "North American Union," an entity formed from the merger of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.

    The alleged seeds for the NAU were planted by the creation of the SPP in 2005. All governments involved say the NAU is myth, but conspiracy theories continue to abound. (Well done Seattle Times article on the subject.)

    Some U.S. presidential candidates have even made reference to these theories by including language in their platform regarding protecting the sovereignty of the United States. It remains to be seen whether opponents will be able to generate enough counterpressure to impede the TTC. .:.


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