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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/ 3/2007

A 'Superhighway' to Nowhere

By Michael Dobbs


Three Republican candidates have denounced the "NAFTA superhighway".

"They don't talk about it [the NAFTA superhighway], and they might not admit it, but there's been money spent on it. There was legislation passed in the Texas legislature unanimously to put a halt on it. They're planning on millions of acres taken by eminent domain for an international highway from Mexico to Canada, which is going to make the immigration problem that much worse."


--Ron Paul, Republican CNN-YouTube Debate, November 28, 2007.


Three of the eight Republican presidential candidates have co-sponsored a House of Representatives resolution denouncing a "NAFTA superhighway" that is supposedly a key part of a master plan to create a "North American Union." A fourth candidate, Mitt Romney, has said he has no evidence that such a plan exists but has pledged, just in case, to put a stop to it "if I am president."


So what is the truth about the "superhighway" allegedly in the early stages of construction from Laredo in Mexico to Winnipeg in Canada, undermining U.S. sovereignty and facilitating the spread of drugs and illegal immigrants?


The Facts

Like many urban legends, the myth of the "NAFTA superhighway" has a basis in fact, but the facts have been so twisted and exaggerated that they have become unrecognizable. It is true a consortium of business interests and state governments would like to upgrade the highway system between Mexico and Canada, using existing interstates, particularly I-35 and I-29, as the basis for the network. It is also a fact that the state of Texas has been talking about constructing a new "Trans-Texas corridor" running to the east of I-35 from Laredo to the Arkansas border. See map here. The two projects have somehow been conflated into a vast supranational conspiracy, involving the Trilateral Commission and the Council of Foreign Relations.

"There is no such highway being planned," says Ian Grossman, spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, flatly. The most he will concede is that "improvements are always being planned to the highway system, to move freight more effectively, both east-west and north-south."

A Google search of the Federal Highway Administration website turns up an obscure reference to a "NAFTA superhighway" in an appendix to an old planning documents but it appears to refer to boring old Interstate 35. According to the principal pro-highway group NASCO, the "NAFTA superhighway" is nothing more than a couple of interstates strung together. Difficult to construct a conspiracy theory out of that.

Ron Paul's congressional website provides a vivid description of the superhighway "cutting a wide swath through the middle of Texas and up through Kansas City" with offshoots to "the west coast, Florida, and northeast." No part of the country, except perhaps Alaska, appears to be safe. Paul warns:

Proponents envision a ten-lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside. This will require coordinated federal and state eminent domain actions on an unprecedented scale, as literally millions of people and businesses could be displaced. The loss of whole communities is almost certain, as planners cannot wind the highway around every quaint town, historic building, or senior citizen apartment for thousands of miles.

Paul's fellow Republican candidate, Duncan Hunter, concedes that "very little is known about the NAFTA superhighway." He has nevertheless been able to establish some alarming details. In Hunter's version, "the ten-lane colossus" becomes even wider:

This 12 lane highway, which is already under construction in Texas, will fast-track thousands of cargo containers across the U.S. without adequate security. These containers will move from Mexico, a country with a record of corruption and involvement in the drug trade, across a border that is already porous and insufficiently protected.

Paul and Hunter have joined fellow presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R-Co) in co-sponsoring a non-binding House resolution denouncing the NAFTA superhighway as "a conduit for the entry into the United States of illegal drugs, illegal human smuggling, and terrorist activities." Also beating the drum on the issue is CNN commentator Lou Dobbs (not related to the Fact Checker) who has used his primetime show to warn that the superhighway poses a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

I asked both the Paul and Hunter campaigns to provide factual support for the candidates' claims on the NAFTA superhighway, but they failed to come up with anything that could be considered authoritative. Hunter's spokesman, Joe Casper, provided a link to an article by Jerome Corsi, co-author of "Unfit For Command," a book that launched the Swift Boat veterans' attacks on John Kerry in the 2004 election. According to Corsi, the superhighway will be the width of "four football fields. For more on the superhighway and Corsi, read a story in the latest edition of Newsweek.

I will give the last word to failed Democratic presidential candidate and fake news commentator Stephen Colbert who described the superhighway as a scheme "to make Canada, the U.S. and Mexico one country and force us to eat moose tacos." After investigating the matter, Colbert concluded that it must be true "because I got it from the Internet."

The Pinocchio Test

There are proposals to upgrade the U.S. interstate highway system to facilitate travel between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. There are also plans for a new Texas state highway between Laredo and Arkansas. But the descriptions of a new "NAFTA superhighway" by Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo that would undermine U.S. sovereignty, serve as a conduit for illegal immigrants, and flatten quaint towns along the way are largely fantasy. Four Pinocchios all around.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | December 3, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  4 Pinocchios, Candidate Watch, Environment, Immigration, Social Issues  
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