Panama Canal expansion spells trouble for Texas roads

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Tsunami of goods from Panama Canal expansion to strain Texas roads
How much more will we be asked to shell out to handle the influx of Chinese goods coming through Texas and the United States? The global corporations always find a way to make the taxpayer foot the bill for them, so taxpayers beware.
By Terri Hall
Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research
August 2, 2016
Panama Canal opening 6 2016
Crowds gather as the first ship enters the newly expanded Panama Canal June 26. It's unsurprising that the first cargo ship came from China.

After 10 years, $5.4 billion dollars, 40,000 workers and lots of delays, snags, and snafus, the Panama Canal expansion finally opened on June 26. But amidst all the hoopla, impacts to Texas cannot be understated. Not only will these new mega ships that offload triple the cargo onto mega trucks strain our infrastructure and clog our highways, the expansion also triples the threats to national security.

Officials admit that since there is nearly triple the capacity of the old canal, it also means transnational criminal networks have triple the space to try and smuggle people and goods into the United States. Between the refugee crisis, open borders, and rampant illegal immigration, the Panama Canal expansion is like heaping gasoline on a fire. Criminals can successfully increase their smuggling operations simply by the sheer net increase in the volume of goods and people hitting customs and border crossings.

Interstate 35, considered a NAFTA superhighway, is the primary artery for the movement of people and goods through the state of Texas then continues north, eventually ending near the border of Canada. Nearly half of all Texans live within 50 miles of I-35. It’s already log-jammed with 18-wheelers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is literally no capacity on I-35 that’s sufficient to handle triple the number of trucks, although officials would say that’s the purpose of neighboring SH 130 tollway.

SH 130 was initially part of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) plan, a massive 1,200-foot-wide network of privatized toll roads, toll rail, telecommunication lines, utilities, and pipelines, intended to be operated by foreign entities that represented eminent domain for private gain among other threats. The tollway was the only segment of the TTC to be built before Texas-sized public opposition finally stymied it. The northern half of the 86-mile tollway is operated by the state of Texas, but the southern stretch is controlled by Spain-Based Cintra under a 52-year public-private-partnership. It went bankrupt in less than three years of operation due to lack of traffic. Cintra is currently restructuring its debt.

Truckers, however, cannot afford to pay the $50 price tag to take the toll road, much less the extra cost of gas to go 85 MPH and drive 30 miles out of the way in order to bypass I-35 congestion through Austin. In fact, every Texas taxpayer is paying $20 million a year to reduce the truck toll rates as a state incentive to woo truckers to SH 130. While it’s slightly increased the number of trucks on SH 130, the tollway is still highly underutilized. Globalists argue the Panama Canal expansion makes the tollway ripe for a significant uptick in truck traffic, but regardless, Texas taxpayers are going to pay a heavy price for it.

But SH 130 only bypasses I-35 traffic through Austin, the rest of the state has no immediate solution to handle triple the truck traffic. While state lawmakers have ‘studied’ this issue to death, they have failed to take any meaningful action to address the coming onslaught. It begs the fundamental question: why should Texas taxpayers have to pay for China to ship more of its cheap goods into our country at our expense? Indeed, the first ship to cross the expanded canal was a 984-foot Chinese vessel filled to the gills with cargo. It’s no wonder ‘the Donald’ is making waves in Texas.

The new canal can accommodate ships, now dubbed neo-Panamex ships, to carry up to 14,000 containers of cargo. The canal is intended to reduce shipping time from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However, if America once again invested in its own workforce and brought manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., it wouldn’t need to address the negative impacts coming from the tsunami of goods that will overload America’s road and rail infrastructure at an incalculable expense to taxpayers. There is no net benefit of cheaper products, if the cost to repair, expand, and maintain public infrastructure simply erases it.

Watch for lawmakers to say we still haven’t parted with enough of our money to sufficiently add the needed capacity to our highways, despite recent passage of both Prop 1 and Prop 7 giving TxDOT $5 billion more per year to address congestion. How much more will we be asked to shell out to handle the influx of Chinese goods coming through Texas and the United States? The global corporations always find a way to make the taxpayer foot the bill for them, so taxpayers beware.