NAFTA Superhighway scheme exposed in Minnesota - not bad for a day's work!! Now I'm going on vacation!!!1!!!

All right everyone. I am about to leave for England & France with my brother and dad tomorrow and I don't plan to blog or stay in the loop at all. But before I go, here is a story I did about the secret NAFTA superhighway scheme uncovered here in Minnesota. We published this in Politics in Minnesota: The Weekly Report yesterday...

SuperRondo Superhighway? MnDOT, NASCO, and plans for the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway

St. Paul's Rondo Days festival is right around the corner on July 21st. Rondo, of course, was the primarily black neighborhood obliterated when I-94 was built and blasted through, a route selected because of the neighborhood's lack of political clout. Deploying the "Stops-4-Us" message, the University Avenue Community Coalition plans to raise awareness about the potential damage to their neighborhoods because of the proposed Central Corridor light rail project, which they fear will remove parking, disrupt commerce and fail to offer enough stops for their community. The federal government wants fewer stops on the Corridor to reduce trip time, or else federal funds will be jeopardized. As one UACC organizer said to PIM, this federal policy has effectively removed transit stops from other urban communities around the nation.

On a much larger scale, proposals are now being drawn up for large transportation networks across America piggybacking on the interstate highway system. PIM has obtained documents from the Minnesota Department of Transportation about proposals to create major international transportation corridors along I-35 and I-94. The documents were obtained from MnDOT via the Minnesota Data Practices Act by local lawyer Nathan Hansen and posted on his blog and law firm's website. We have packaged the PDFs into a 66 MB ZIP archive available here through PIM's website.

The major group coordinating this effort is North America's Supercorridor Coalition, or NASCO. The MnDOT files include many strategic public relations emails among NASCO, lobbyists, government employees across the country, in Canada and Mexico, as well as grant applications specifying the exact nature of NASCO projects. Many emails among MnDOT personnel are also included. These documents formed the basis for a report by Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily, which also discussed MnDOT's views of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's (R) position on the matter. (Officially, he doesn't have one). The documents confirm that MnDOT agreed to join NASCO for a specially discounted price of $15,000, money that perhaps could have been better spent patching I-35W's potholes.

NASCO's website declares that I-35 is already the NAFTA superhighway; the group is not trying to build some vast network. Oklahoma City's mayor recently agreed [GoogleVideo] that I-35 was "really a part of that NAFTA corridor," and the U.S., Canada and Mexico should really be one economy. Both publicly and privately, NASCO brushes off the supposedly sinister nature of their project, which they say is intended to benefit the economy and alleviate congestion. Also MnDOT provided NASCO an index of projects along I-35 and I-94 in an effort to get NASCO's Washington lobbyists to coordinate better funding.

Also released were NASCO public relations documents describing how to spin media coverage, and MnDOT emails about media incidents. Oddly, NASCO distributed PR material disambiguating themselves, the cross-border Security and Prosperity Partnership, and even the Council on Foreign Relations, among their materials sent to Minnesota.

Interestingly, NASCO discusses an advanced systems integration platform called NAFTRACS (North American Facilitation of Transportation, Trade, Reduced Congestion and Security Project), which would be developed by SAVI, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, which already handles shipping container logistics for the Pentagon's Global Transportation Network. The NAFTRACS "integration pilot program will automatically gather, correlate, and interpret fragments of multi-source (Radar, AIS, & GPS tracks, Open Source, Intelligence, Watch list & Law Enforcement Report, CCTV, Bioterrorism sensors) data together into one collaborative portal-based environment, an [sic] ultimately a Total Transportation Domain Awareness Center of Excellence." The NASCO Center of Excellence and Total Domain Awareness Center would be the "centerpiece of the corridor coalition; will engage in studies, development and deployment activities; will seek funding & investment for a broad array of projects relevant to both the corridor and of current & national significance," including "the US-Mexico-Canada Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP); Hurricane Katrina/Rita impact; Cross-border trade facilitation and information sharing; inland ports network; counter-terrorism and security." In the last couple PDF files, the development of NAFTRACS through Lockheed Martin's advanced military-oriented research facility in Virginia is discussed at length.

PIM hasn't heard anything about this project through the grapevine; only nativist and conservative media outlets (what some would dub "right wing whacko") have focused on plans for continental integration. It seems unlikely that massive superhighways will be built along I-35, but still, it's quite interesting to examine the flurry of communications, message management and cross-border integration exposed by this set of documents. Check out the raw material; it's really quite unusual and informative. While activists in Texas and Oklahoma are raising a ruckus about the potential Rondoization of their counties, Minnesotans would be wise to look south and keep an eye out.

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Well that's it everyone. Have a good time, I will see you in two weeks. Thanks for visiting! And check out PoliticsInMinnesota to see how they pull it off when I'm gone!

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