NASCO gets highway trust fund "off-budget"

Link to article here.

The superhighway no one is funding
By Joseph Farah
World Net Daily
September 1, 2006

Another key congressman – Rep. Roy Blunt, majority whip in the House of Representatives – is telling his constituents the federal government has nothing to do with the idea of building the “NAFTA superhighway.”

This is at least the third Republican member of Congress either playing dumb or deliberately deceiving American taxpayers by claiming no federal dollars have flowed into the project.

In a form letter being sent by Blunt now to the many inquiries he and other members of Congress are getting about the project in the wake of a series of WND stories, Blunt makes the following statement: “The maps of a NAFTA superhighway were produced by a group called the North American SuperCorridor Coalition. This group is not a government agency. It is not associated with, its contents are not sanctioned by, and it receives no funding from the United States Congress, the Department of Transportation or any other government agency.”

On and on it goes. We have official after official denying the U.S. government’s well-documented role in financing the NAFTA superhighway – a project mandated by the trade agreement passed by Congress. What will they be denying next? That Social Security is going broke? Oh, yeah, I guess they will.

Anyway, Blunt joins Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who ridiculed the idea that there are plans to build the NAFTA superhighway and also affirmed in no uncertain terms that Congress has authorized no money for the project.

Then there was Rep. Jim Oberstar, R-Minn., who claimed through an aide, “There are no earmarks for a superhighway like that.”

Likewise, Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., has posted on his re-election campaign website a letter written by the former executive director of NASCO, the North American SuperCorridor Coalition, claiming there are no plans for building the superhighway and belittling WND for reporting on the subject.

Let’s set the record straight. Unless NASCO is lying on its own website, the federal government has allocated $2.25 million directly to NASCO “for the development of a technology integration and tracking project.”

In explaining what this means, NASCO says: “The project will have a team approach using members of NASCO as the primary participants in the project, to the extent possible. NASCO believes the deployment of a modern information system will reduce the cost, improve the efficiency, reduce trade-related congestion, and enhance security of cross-border and corridor information, trade and traffic.”

Is that clear? Sounds like our money is being well-spent. And it doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with a NAFTA superhighway, does it?

In addition, NASCO boasts of the creation of a NASCO Caucus within Congress. It talks of “coordinating the efforts of local, state and federal agencies and the private sector to integrate and secure a multimodal transportation system along the existing ‘NASCO Corridor.'”

Though NASCO has begun insisting on its website that “there are no plans to build a new NAFTA superhighway,” this statement is disingenuous to say the least. What the group means, when pressed, is that the superhighway it envisions will be built upon an existing series of highways. Thus, “new” is the critical word that keeps members’ pants from catching fire.

As to the claims by members of Congress that no federal money is being allocated to this project and that the agency has no connection to Congress, again, just look at what NASCO says:

  • NASCO is “known as the strongest International Trade Corridor Coalition on Capitol Hill.”
  • “Lobbying efforts have helped secure more than $150 million in corridor transportation project funding to date.”
  • NASCO “helped gain more than $79 million in Corridor projects in FY03 through the National Corridor Planning and Development Program, ITS Program, Interstate Maintenance Program and the Discretionary Bridge Program.”
  • NASCO “successfully lobbied to take the Highway Trust fund ‘off-budget,’ which resulted in increased transportation formula funding for NASCO’s corridor states.” (Maybe that’s why these members of Congress are having a hard time finding the money – it’s “off-budget.”)
  • NASCO was “awarded a seat on the North American International Trade Corridor DOT (Department of Transportation) Steering Committee to oversee the development of the federally funded ITS/CVO study along the corridor.”

And, last but not least, please note this: “Since 1999, the federal government has directed more than $234 million in project funding towards the NASCO Corridor.”

My questions: Who’s lying? And why?