In early 2008 major protests by landowners throughout south Texas have been featured regularly in the press. Thirty counties in Texas have protested the seizure of hundred of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land by the Texas Department of Transportation for NAFTA traffic for a four football fields-side complex of tollways and high-speed rail which will divide rural Texas.
Plans call for few exits on the tollways, and local businesses and communities will be bypassed. It will not be easy to get off the train since it has few stops.
The NAFTA Corridors are an international project, planned to begin at the port of Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico, run through Texas to the hub in Kansas City and then on to Canada. They will be used to transport goods made in China for multinational corporations to various parts of North America. The strategy appears to be to obtain cheap labor by avoiding the union labor of the Longshoremen’s union in California ports and the organized labor in the whole trucking industry. Conversations with Longshoremen recently revealed also that huge Wal-Mart containers are currently arriving each day at the Port of Houston. This aspect of the Houston economy will be terminated by the NAFTA corridors non-union project.
This massive transportation system, costing almost two hundred billion dollars in Texas alone, is being built to make it possible to import goods cheaply from China and import people, apparently through a temporary guest worker program.
The plans for the Trans Texas Corridors call for building a 1,200 foot-wide complex involving ten to twelve vehicle lanes—five lanes in each direction, north and south, with three lanes each way reserved for passenger vehicles and two separate lanes each way reserved for trucks. All will be tollways. The design includes six rail lines running along the highway which will include high-speed rail, commuter rail, and freight rail, as well as utility corridors that will include pipelines for oil and natural gas, fiber optics cables, and electricity towers all along the corridors in Texas.
Press reports indicate that China is investing heavily in this transportation project. It is to be built by a joint venture between Madrid-based Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. and Zachary Construction Corporation, a San Antonio construction firm. Cintra would receive the income from tolls for 50 years. The whole project has been clouded by allegations of inappropriate lobbying and payoffs.
Whom will this massive, expensive project benefit? Not workers. Not the farmers whose land will be taken by eminent domain. It will be the multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, March-April 2008.