In a dramatic Nov. 9 statement on transportation issues delivered to a group of city and business leaders, Texas Transportation Commissioner Ted Houghton stated: "I-69 is dead in the state of Texas. The road fairy has been shot."
A spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry said it is unlikely that Washington would spend as much as $7 billion in Texas for I-69.
"From our perspective, we agree with the commissioner," Robert Black said. "If we want to make I-69 a reality, then we're going to have to look at a number of other tools."
Black said the possibilities include tolls.
Earlier this year Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels sent a delegation to Texas to study how that state was using privatization to fund transportation projects. He suggested Indiana could use Texas as a model for funding options.
Regarding I-69, Daniels has also said: "It"s a toll road or no road." He said the state was looking into public/private partnerships as a way to fund transportation projects, including I-69.
Commissioner Houghton said local communities need to be involved in ways to fund transportation projects, including tolls, bonds or raising taxes and fees on water, electricity or cable TV.
An axiom for business investment states: You don"t move until you run the numbers. No feasibility study has ever recommended building I-69 as a toll road. Indeed, the studies that were done to justify the construction of I-69 in Indiana assumed it would NOT be a toll road.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement for I-69 in Indiana says: "Some previous proposals were studied as toll roads. These proposals were not recommended because the road would not be financially feasible as a toll road."
Opponents are skeptical of the concept of I-69 as a NAFTA trucking corridor. The proposed I-69 is just that Ð "proposed." It is a study corridor only, with 32 individual study sections through eight states.
I-69 got its validity in the nation"s optimism for NAFTA. Congress mandated that various routes be studied as possible corridors between Canada and Mexico. Congress has continued to send money to the states to study the proposal. But Texas and Indiana now realize there is no pot of federal gold to actually build I-69.
"Every state is going to come to this conclusion as they get to the funding stage," said Thomas Tokarski, president of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads. (CARR) "The states will fall back on increasingly unpopular funding schemes. If any state along the proposed route gives up on I-69 then the whole NAFTA corridor justification falls by the wayside."
Skeptics also question the feasibility of building another Mexico to Canada highway that would be longer than existing interstate routes. Making this longer route a toll road defies logic and common sense. What trucker would use a hugely expensive route that is longer than free routes?
The Sept. 26 issue of TOLLROADSnews says of I-69 in Indiana: "I-69 at 229km (142 miles) would be the longest single toll project undertaken in the US in several decades Ð unless those Texans roll out a major Trans-Texas Corridor segment meanwhile."
The construction cost for I-69 in Indiana would be at least $2billion, but more likely $3-4 billion. The cost in Texas is given as around $7 billion. This amounts to around $10 billion for these two states alone. The cost for the entire route would be astronomical. Toll roads are more expensive to build and operate than non-toll roads.
Even when the states claimed they had the money to build I-69 it was a bad idea. The highway would cause extensive environmental and social damage. With the admission that there is no money for the construction of I-69 it becomes a mill stone around the necks of state governments and their citizens who would have to foot the bills through higher taxes and tolls.
Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads can be reached at .