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The World This Week: Nafty Business

"Super Corridor" will pave over the heart of America.

Comments (52)
Thursday, November 29, 2007

While the cat has been away in Iraq, the mice have been at play here in the United States. More like rats than mice, actually, they've set up one of the worst traps in American history. And we are all about to drive right into it.

The latest rat trap goes by the vaguely pornographic name Interstate 69. I-69 is a massive superhighway that already extends from Ontario to Indianapolis (through Michigan). There are plans to resume construction next spring and push it through southern Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, where it will connect with the highways of the Plan Puebla Panama in Mexico.

Meanwhile, another part of this "Super Corridor" called Interstate 35 has been expanding from Winnepeg to Mexico, through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas.

All this asphalt, pollution, impervious surface, drained wetlands, traffic, is courtesy NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. I-69 and I-35 will be the major artery of globalization in the Americas—an aorta through our heartland four football fields wide.

The road has already gobbled up hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped, pristine habitat, and displaced rural families through eminent domain "takings." When it's completed, it will profoundly reshape the Americas, gutting regions and, in Central America, cultures, while leading to more dam projects, clear-cutting of forests and other environmentally unfriendly activities. In addition, this "corridor" will require $2 billion per year of public funds for "infrastructure improvements."

The push for Interstates 69 and 35 has been brutal, driven by the greed of a few corporations that cowed Congress into funding this boondoggle while also destroying Amtrak and bleeding our railroads and public transportation projects dry. However, it would be unfair to call this capitalism. The money used to build it is public; thus it would be closer to the truth to equate this to a Soviet Five-Year Plan. And it would not be too far off the mark to describe America's current political system as a totalitarian corporate state. You may not like the cold-bloodedness of this language, but to call it anything else is playing the semantic spin game that puppets like Bush and Cheney have learned so well (Clear Skies Initiative for "gut air pollution regulations," Operation Enduring Freedom for "invade another country and steal its oil").

Not since the Gilded Age, when the railroads blazed a trail across the girth of the nation—stealing Indian lands and blasting through majestic landscapes—has a government-sanctioned transportation project of this scale been attempted. Think about it. The biggest highway in the nation is being built after we've already reached peak oil, after the usefulness of a road-centric paradigm has run its course. Further, in the areas through which it is planned, no one wants it but a handful of corporate con men slurping at the public trough.

Public hearings and protests have occurred along the route of Interstate 69, but they have done nothing to stem this massive boondoggle. The lazy press has spun the corporate framing narrative—that the superhighway is "inevitable" and any efforts to stop it are "futile." Activists are portrayed as "ecoradicals" and shoved aside, or jailed for minor infractions that are inevitable when crowds of protesters gather. Meanwhile, the "business community" hails the false panacea of "economic development."

You need to educate yourself about this road, this not-so-super highway—if for no other reason than that you are helping to pay for it.

Comments (52)
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We need bicycle paths in every community. We do not need another bloody super highway for a post-carbon future. We need walkable communities!!! The priorities are all wrong.
Posted by Daniel Draffen on 11.28.07 at 13:01
Where is the outrage? Is everyone asleep??
Posted by Tom on 11.28.07 at 16:12
What I forgot to mention in my earlier post is that we really need to improve our railway system! Compared to Europe, our railway system is far behind. What we need is a major shift of funds from massive highway bills to modern, electrified, high speed railways to transport passengers as well as cargo. What we don't need now is more highway construction for petrol-based automobile traffic. As the depletion-mode economics of Peak Oil start to kick in we are going to find ourselves in really bad shape unless we start building up our Railway system and doing it starting about right now!!!
Posted by Daniel Draffen on 11.28.07 at 16:57
So in other words, we Americans are a superior species and it is our inalienable right to possess the world's highest standard of living while others must live in abject poverty? Globalization is lifting billions out of poverty. Like it or not, goods are not transported on bike paths. FYI, Europe transports a greater percentage of goods via trucks than does the United States. Fixed rail solutions are a throw back to an earlier era. Technology and economics will resolve Peak Oil. I am looking forward to the day when my roof is covered with thin film solar cells, my car is a plug-in hybrid and I can drive down I-69!
Posted by bsneath on 11.28.07 at 18:19
One could stop this by stop buying anything except nesessary of life. Jan 1,08 stop buying. Make the moment for future Stop buying and wait till they start asking WHY?
Posted by Gwyn Charlton on 11.28.07 at 19:21
Sorry bsneath, but you are delusional - and your complete lack of understanding of the laws of thermodynamics is total. Go away and learn a few things.
Posted by saildog on 11.28.07 at 21:01
Ah yes, the continuing Sovietization of American life
Posted by F.Baube on 11.28.07 at 23:26
One nit to pick. I35 terminates in Duluth on the shores lf Lake Superior, and you wouldn't really want to extend it further north. There are beautiful wilderness areas to the north of this, and the nearest Canadian city is Thunder Bay. It is I29 that goes through the Dakotas to Winnipeg. Getting back to the main point of the story here, I agree with other commenters who talk of how in a post-peak world, there will be an increasing need for rail and bicycle transportation. Fuel costs have already been pushing more and more freight onto rail for long-distance transport - I expect this trend to continue and accelerate.
Posted by Eric on 11.29.07 at 2:54
I thought I read somewhere that this thing isn't happening and is an 'urban myth'. And if it is happening, I wonder who in Congress is onto the scheme and opposing it?
Posted by cameron on 11.29.07 at 3:37
I used to live near I69. I remember, back then, 10 years ago, they started working on this thing and the interest was poor. Indiana, however, was very interested. Ohio, on the other hand, felt that the interstate system was already complete, and that no further highways would be built. Ohoho, of course, gets traffic via I69->I75. An alternative route would have been I69->I94->I55, hence Illinois wasn't interested in this I69 extension, either. The interested companies figure the following: 1) the interconnections near Chicago and Ashland or Knoxville are too congested, 2) the extra mileage summed over so many truck trips are excessive. Getting the taxpayer to pay for this extension offloads these increased shipping costs onto the taxpayer. Companies are willing to pay the premium for trucking over rail because trucking facilitates their just-in-time logistic requirements, which cuts the costs of warehousing and perished goods. Already the railroads ship over 80% of freight in the US- the remaining goods are shipped by truck because of other requirements, such as being needed just-in-time, being needed off the railroad track, being needed in a short time, etc. As for bicycle paths, this road isn't being built for Joe Commuter.
Posted by JjJ on 11.29.07 at 3:40
Nice pseudo-intellectual comeback saildog.
Posted by bsneath on 11.29.07 at 4:50
Read the WHO, WHY and HOW of the superhighway in here: http://openlettertowalterwilliams.blogspot.com/
Posted by Deacon on 11.29.07 at 9:15
The reason this is being built is to replace well-paid US dock workers and truck drivers with low cost Mexican and Central American labor. It's being done for Walmart, et al. We don't need jobs in the US, everybody can just get another mortgage on their home!
Posted by ArtShu on 11.29.07 at 11:47
Good article, but you don't have a clue were I 35 is, it comes out of Tekas, Ok, MO, Ia, MIN, to Canada . I 25 comes up the way you described
Posted by Cortland Butterfield on 11.29.07 at 12:46
ArtShu is correct. The real purpose of this road is clear. The wealthy class has destroyed as many of the manufacturing jobs as they can with so-called "free trade," but there have been good jobs left for truck drivers and workers at the ports. This road will destroy American port jobs and truck driving jobs giving them to foreigners, and thus continuing the downward economic decline of America. Why does the wealthy class consist of such a bunch of traitors?
Posted by Richard on 11.29.07 at 20:22
Number of bullet trains placed in service in 2007: U.S.A. - 000 China - 500 http://www.freepublictransit.org
Posted by socialscientist on 11.30.07 at 10:27
There is a very active group working against this highway in Indiana. See http://www.carri69.org/.
Posted by Charles Siegel on 11.30.07 at 11:39
bsneath-- Just because you want something, doesn't mean it will happen. "Technology and economics" will resolve a problem that is so far-reaching that the average person simply doesn't understand all of its ramifications. I can envision using solar power, perhaps to charge small batteries to run DC lighting systems at night, but it isn't likely to charge our cars to allow us to use them the way we've been accustomed. But, Peak Oil goes well beyond simple fuel-- your much-loved I-69 cannot be built using solar power, and asphalt isn't made from switchgrass. In fact, I doubt solar energy will ever even provide enough juice to manufacture your plug-in hybrid. Life in the future is probably going to see forced (by nature and economics) conservation and living a far more austere life. If you're unable to even *consider* such a possibility, it means you really are delusional.
Posted by Sean on 12.1.07 at 18:08
This writer from Connecticut doesn't know what he is talking about. He talks about I-35 going through the Dakotas - it goes up through the Twin Cities to Duluth. He lost plenty of credibility right there. Also, talking about this roadway being four football fields wide. Right. There may be a few short segments where it needs to be extra wide to help design around some kind of natural feature or near interchanges with other major roads - but the typical roadway cross section will not be 400 yards wide! He writes about this hurting port workers. Well, this route will help many, many people in IN, KY, AR, TX, etc. keep or obtain new jobs related to truck distribution facilities. There are thousands of jobs in the US connected to truck-oriented logistics and distribution jobs. The construction of the highway through the south-central part of the US will help attract more of those jobs to those areas. Also - bike paths are being planned along with the roadway plans for many sections of this corridor. All in all, I think this is a good thing for the South-Central US where this will provide additional, attractive roadway infrastructure. Sure someone from Connecticut might not care about a significant new interstate in the heartland - but it will be helpful to our part of the country. Do you think we in the Midwest or the South wanted to see the billions of Federal tax dollars spent on the "big dig" in Boston or our Federal tax dollars spent on new subway routes in NYC. We don't complain however - but if some decent transportation infrastructure is happening out in the Midwest, leave it to someone from Connecticut to complain. I am all for significant federal dollars going for improving passenger rail in the US. We should definitely have high speed rail. I just think you are going overboard in criticizing this important roadway project. Sure it might not help those out on the eastern and western coasts of the US - but it will help us in the Midwest and South Central US. So even if we are "flyover country", we are an important part of this country and we need good infrastructure too.
Posted by Tom on 12.3.07 at 6:43
The one thing we know for sure is that as you build new highways or expand highways you create more congestion and longer commute times as you spread jobs away from homes. So yea sounds great!
Posted by daver on 12.3.07 at 7:22
The writer does not know what he is talking about. Neither do most commenters. See Washington Times article. http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/?hpid=news-col-blog
Posted by Mark on 12.3.07 at 8:58
Thanks for the Fact Checker article. It shows how ridiculous the concern is about I-35 / I-29. There is no reason I-29 would need to be greatly widened or improved north of Omaha. There is almost no population up that way in the Dakotas or in North Central Canada. The new I-69 plans connecting Indianapolis to the Houston area are likely what the person from Connecticut is concerned about - but that route makes plenty of sense as it links the main population areas of Canada in Ontario and Quebec through the Detroit area and through Indy and the South Central US to Mexico. This will help many communities grow that will be located along this important transportation spine. Also - JjJ's comment was way wrong in his statement that railroads carry 80% of the freight in the US. Even if you look at that statement based on sheer weight and volume of what is carried, the real number is around 40 - 50% carried by rail. When you look at the value of the freight carried by rail, it is much lower, like 15 - 20% of the total freight value. Rail is very important but so are trucks. I-69 along with other multi-modal transportation iprovements is what this country needs. Its the stupid ""war" in the Middle East started by President Bush that is the real waste of our hard earned tax-payer money!
Posted by Tom on 12.3.07 at 11:47
It's an urban legend started by a satirical article in "The Onion": http://www.theonion.com/content/node/27842
Posted by Steve on 12.3.07 at 17:54
I wish it was an "urban myth" or urban legend, but sadly it is a rural reality. And I know people who are fighting it in Indiana and Texas because it will wreak havoc on the natural habitat and rural areas near where they live. Citing an article in the Washington Times, as someone did above, is not a refutation. The Washington Times is owned by the Reverend Moon, who has declared himself the living incarnation of God or Jesus, or some such craziness. It is not a serious newspaper. Here's a link to a story in the Telegraph (London, U.K.), which doesn't have a political axe to grind in this matter: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/04/wroad04.xml
Posted by bisbort on 12.3.07 at 21:55
Tom, Although I'm opposed to this highway on the grounds that it simply won't have a future, it should be said that places like NY and Mass pay more out in federal taxes than they receive back. Ironically, it's the "small government"-loving states in the central section that generally take in more than their fair share of federal monies.
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Sorry bsneath, but you are delusional - and your complete lack of understanding of the laws of thermodynamics is total.
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"You need to educate yourself about this road, this not-so-super highwayif for no other reason than that you are helping to pay for it"
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Posted by kene ilaçlama on 6.11.09 at 7:30
One could stop this by stop buying anything except nesessary of life. Jan 1,08 stop buying. Make the moment for future Stop buying and wait till they start asking WHY?
Posted by web tasarim on 6.12.09 at 3:44
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Posted by kiz oyunu on 6.30.09 at 1:51
Having now lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where the proposed I-69 would go through, I have to say, it'd be nice. The small roads around here cannot handle the traffic, and trying to go from here to southern Indiana puts us on some dangerous small roads where we constantly pass crosses. At the very least, I-69 needs to be extended through central Indiana down to I-64.
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