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The World This Week: Nafty Business

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

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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.

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