Monday, November 12, 2007

Should Private Companies Be Allowed To Own Our Roads?

Should Private Companies Be Allowed To Own Our Roads?

As a member of the House of Representative's Transportation Committee I was able to closely observe one of the most controversial issues of the past legislative session. At issue is Oklahoma's membership in a group known as the North America SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO), the desire of big corporations to enhance the movement of Chinese-manufactured goods throughout North America, the possible privatization of new state and federal highways, NASCO's desire to deploy sophisticated tracking devices along I-35 and clear attempts towards the creation of a closer economic and political union between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The depth of this subject matter is nearly overwhelming and because of it's complexity I only have time to talk about a small segment of it in this update. I take the duty of informing my constituents of these events very seriously and thus look forward to continuing to update you on these issues in the future.

In last week's update I talked about what I feel is the inappropriate and frightening alliance of big business with big government. Nowhere is this abuse more clear than when big companies buy long term leases of public roads. You can only imagine how your power as a citizen is minimized when a big (and likely foreign owned) corporation has complete control over a public road on which you depend in order to get where you need to go.

The issue of private ownership of public roads is in its infancy in Oklahoma but growing after Texas has planned out the construction of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) network over the next 50 years to be financed by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., (Cintra) a foreign investment consortium based in Spain. Cintra will own the leasing and operating rights on TTC highways for 50 years after the construction is complete.

The TTC initiative begun in 2002 focused on building a superhighway parallel to Interstate 35. It seems that proponents of this privately owned super transit corridor intend on linking Mexican ports through Oklahoma to an inland port to be located in Kansas City and from there to various distribution points throughout North America.

A communist Chinese owned company known as Hutchison Ports Holdings is paying billions to deepen the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas in anticipation of the arrival of container mega-ships capable of holding up to 12,500 containers currently being built for Chinese shipping lines. These ports would likely serve as a starting point for Chinese goods that would be distributed into the United States along the super highway corridor.

The aforementioned group, NASCO, is not only advocating for an I-35 trade corridor but is also pushing for the creation of a tracking system known as NAFTRACS to be put in place along I-35. This technology would be developed in part by a joint venture owned by Hutchison Ports Holdings. NAFTRACS has been described by NASCO as a program that provides management tools for mitigating or minimizing traffic congestion and collecting the status of certain items in transit. The data generated by these sensors would be shared with the joint venture although it is not clear if the data would be shared with the Chinese government owners of the joint interest. In May of this year, NASCO requested that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation sign a letter stating that ODOT was looking forward to participating in the tracking program.

During the last legislative session it was discovered that Oklahoma is a dues paying member of NASCO. In other words your taxpayer dollars are helping finance this organization. In the next few weeks Senator Randy Brogden (R-Owasso) will be filing a bill which I intend to co-sponsor that will remove Oklahoma from theNASCO coalition. And, as your Representative I am committed to opposing any attempts to allow private ownership of public roads.

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