Ghost Road

| May 16, 2007

1/1/1989 – Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, signed by Reagan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, takes effect.

6/10/1990 – President George H.W. Bush and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari back the notion of a U.S.-Mexico free trade agreement.

8/21/1990 – Salinas proposes a bilateral free-trade agreement.

6/12/1991 – Beginning of trade negotiations among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

10/7/1992 – Official signing of NAFTA by U.S. officials.

12/17/1992 – Official signing by President George H.W. Bush, President Salinas and Prime Minister Mulroney.

1/1/1994 – NAFTA takes effect, calling for lifting of the moratorium on Mexican and U.S. carriers operating in cross-border operations beyond commercial zones by Dec. 18, 1995.

12/29/1995 – President Bill Clinton signs the ICC Termination Act of 1995 into law, exempting U.S.-owned carriers domiciled in Mexico from the Mexican-border moratorium but further extending the general moratorium in response to opposition to its lifting.

7/4/2000 – Vicente Fox, having been elected president of Mexico two days earlier, proposes a 20-to-30-year timeline for the institution of a common North American market, marked by coordination of customs, monetary, labor and external tariff policies.

7/3/2001 – American Trucking Associations announces support of U.S. president George W. Bush’s initiative toward lifting the moratorium on Mexican-domiciled carriers operating in the U.S.

The Other Superhighways
With two surface transportation act reauthorizations since ISTEA, more corridors have been anointed with high-priority status and have attracted their own advocacy teams. The CANAMEX Corridor team is one such group, focused on the route from the Nogales, Ariz., border crossing to I-15 across the Canadian border in Montana. The Houston-based Alliance for I-69 Texas advocates for future I-69 from Laredo to Shreveport and joins similar groups in other states focused on future segments of I-69. The Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor Coalition is another.

The Ports-to-Plains route was first included as a high-priority corridor in the 1998 TEA-21 bill, marked for development as an alternative to the high-traffic I-35 for freight heading more generally westerly. Federal Highway Administration public affairs officer Doug Hecox speculates that the phrase “NAFTA Superhighway” might be referring to this one.

The Ports-to-Plains Corridor proceeds northwest from I-35 outside Laredo through Texas along U.S. 83, 277 and 87 and through Oklahoma and New Mexico along various routes to Denver, Colo. Coalition president Michael Reeves identifies the group’s goal as transforming what is in many areas a two-lane highway to a four- or six-lane divided highway with relief routes around cities for trucks. The biggest project under way at the moment is widening along U.S. 64/87 between Raton and Clayton, N.M. “And U.S. 87 in Texas as well,” says Reeves.

A high-speed route along the corridor would cut 100 miles or so from the trip from Laredo to Denver and would be a more peaceful ride for truckers, says Reeves, through mostly rural lands.

He also notes a study under way at TxDOT aimed at the possibility of developing Ports-to-Plains as part of the Trans-Texas Corridor project in the distant future. Significantly, all involved are exploring options that do not include tolls. “We want to incorporate rail and utilities,” says Reeves, “but we’re not to the level of congestion you see on I-35, so a toll wouldn’t make sense.”

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