With one trophy nailed to its wall, North America's Superhighway
Coalition, formerly known as the I-35 Corridor Coalition, is ready
start the next phase -- improving Interstate 35 and its main
tributaries into an international trade route.
In the $216 billion 1997 transportation bill, called
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (or TEA 21), passed
late last month, Congress allocated $700 million for a new category
of highways, international trade routes. This has been one of the
coalition's objectives since its inception in early 1994. Now, the
U.S. Department of Transportation must write rules and regulations
how to divvy up the money among competing corridor coalitions.
The lion's share of that money is expected to flow toward the I-
corridor, primarily because "we already have the right of way and we
have the infrastructure in place," said Oklahoma State Sen. Keith
Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City and president of North America's
"We are so far ahead of the others, that what we have done may
become the model the U.S. DOT uses when it writes the rules and
regulations," Leftwich said.
While the public-private coalition has been busy celebrating
passage of the bill, the work is not completed, Leftwich said.
"Obviously we now are at a crossroads," he said. "We can either
say we have accomplished our goal, creating this new category of
highways, and disband, or we can continue as we have planned and
at the big picture.
"My feelings are that we should continue to work and look at the
big picture. We have no direct authority, but we do have the ability
to coordinate and resolve disputes, to use our credibility to
the interests of the states and the regions."
Coordination is extremely important along the line because "a
bottleneck in Kansas City is important to people in Oklahoma City
a bad bridge in Ardmore is important to people in Des Moines," he
North America's Superhighway Coalition has evolved from the I-35
Corridor Coalition formed by 12 counties and five cities in Texas.
Oklahoma -- prompted by Leftwich -- was the first state to formally
join the coalition. Others include Iowa, Kansas and Missouri in the
United States, the province of Manitoba and the city of Winnipeg in
Canada, The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, the Detroit International
Bridge Co., the Canadian Transit Co., Love's Country Stores based in
Oklahoma City, Frozen Foods Express Industries, Enserch, Bexar Metro
Water District, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Lone Star
Gas, Trinity Industries, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce,
International Band of Commerce and Alliance Development Co.
Fighting for position
It's not known when new rules and regulations will be written or
when money for improving the highway -- that is I-35 and connecting
trade corridors, interstates, 29, 44, 80 and 94 -- will be
"That's still up in the air right now," Leftwich said.
With passage of the new category of highways, the next phase for
the coalition is to "continue promoting this region for a while and
keep an eye on what's going on," he said. …