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Student Research Journal > Spring 2013 Issue
Current Issue

NASCO Corridor The Roadway to Efficiency or Chaos

Michael J. Kalil Jr.

Abstract

The NASCO corridor is one of the largest proposed trade corridors in the United States. This paper will cover reasons for the proposal of such a project and define the countries that will be impacted as a result of the implementation of this super trade highway. Specific advantages will be outlined that will be realized by all potential stakeholders, including the surrounding communities that border the proposed super highway, private businesses that have products that cross the borders of North America, as well as the development of infrastructure in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Also covered will be disadvantages that plague a project of this size by focusing on potential security risks, obvious cost demands, and displacement of residents directly in line of the proposed locations for the super highway.

Introduction

Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta felt that “transportation is vital to the productivity, and therefore the success of virtually every business in America. Congestion and delay not only waste our time as individuals, they also burden our businesses and our entire economy with inefficiency and higher costs” (Melvin, 2006, slide 22). This fundamental concept has led to collaboration between many North American states, countries, and private businesses in an effort to increase the efficiency of their supply chains and overall economies through their respected territories. This need for greater supply chain efficiency is, in part, due to the increasing United States trade activities done using surface transportation between Canada and Mexico. The trade using surface transportation has been reported to have increased 17.4 % in February 2012 (Hutchison, 2012). These North American countries and private businesses have begun to establish and construct super corridors to streamline the transport of traded products throughout Mexico, the United States, and Canada. One of these super corridors is the NASCO corridor. This corridor is the largest and the most criticized of these super highways. This corridor supports a large portion of the total trade between these North American nations, which is in the neighborhood of $1 trillion dollars annually (Hutchison, 2012). The NASCO corridor spans a total of 2,500 miles and covers the central United States, eastern and central Canada, and far down into Mexico. It is a multi-modal transportation network that connects 71 million people through the inclusion of the deep-water ports of Mexico, border crossings of Laredo, Texas, through 11 states, the Ambassador Bridge in Canada, and Winnipeg, Manitoba (Melvin, 2006). In the U.S., the NASCO corridor consists of mainly I-35, I-29, and I-94. Many benefits are associated with a project of this magnitude such as replacement and expansion of the current infrastructure elements in these affected areas, annual cost savings, and potential market growth in the surrounding communities. In turn, several disadvantages are realized such as the obvious cost of the expansion, displacement of residents in the proposed areas for the corridor’s path, and security concerns due to reduction in border control efforts.

Infrastructure

One very important benefit is the replacement and expansion of infrastructure in the communities that are affected by this NASCO corridor. The current deteriorating infrastructure of the roads alone is a debilitating fact. The United States highway network is the largest in the world. According to a U.S. infrastructure report card, the total length of this highway network is an astounding 6.33 million km, of which 3.73 million km is paved (Engineers, 2009). “I-35, one of the main arteries of this NASCO corridor; is one of the most congested roadways in the nation and carries the largest amount of trade with Mexico” (Corridors of the Future Application, 2006, p. 9). The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report card showed that in 2009 the United States received a D for roads. The bridges also are in need of repair. Bridges received a grade of C-, on the U.S. infrastructure report card, but this grade is accompanied with indications that 26% of these bridges are structurally deficient or even non-operational (Engineers, 2009). The railway systems are also ranking poorly receiving a C- from the ASCE (Engineers, 2009). The railway systems in the U.S. are generally used for freight purposes with 42% of all intercity freight traveling via railway. These figures include 70% of domestically manufactured automobiles and 70% of coal deliveries to power plants (Engineers, 2009). As is evident in these statistics, a commitment to routine maintenance and needed upgrades to the United States infrastructure is vital to our leadership in the global market place.

Annual Cost Savings

The increase of annual cost savings is also a major benefit to the NASCO corridor. According to Kemp, poor road conditions cost United States motorists 54 billion a year in repairs and operating costs (Kemp, 2009). Studies have shown that motorists in Iowa alone could see an annual savings of $1.15 billion in their vehicle operating costs through the use of the NASCO corridor (Tice, 1999). This is followed by $151 billion in annual savings associated with accident cost (Tice, 1999). Due to the methods of freight inspection implemented at the Mexican ports, such as inspections performed by Mexican labor forces and fewer border delays, businesses importing goods into the U.S. would see a reduction in labor cost and time. This would reflect positively on their bottom lines in addition to their supply chain efficiency (Peterson, 2007).

Potential Market Growth

Another major benefit from the development of the NASCO corridor is the potential market growth. “The economic impact is expected to result in 40,000 direct and indirect total jobs created” (Hutchison, 2012, para.12). According to Tice’s figures, the construction and operational life of the project would boost the economy in the primary corridor areas by increasing personal income of the workers by over $30.8 billion (Tice, 1999). This economic boost would “reverse the rapid depopulation and economic stagnation in a vast, mostly rural land area dependent on agriculture…and transform the heartland into a viable, self-sustaining, and prosperous region (Black, 2006, p. 6). “With less congestion and delays, trade would become more efficient among North American countries. Just-in-time inventories could be more widely used and reliable. The cost of shipping would be reduced and the environmental impact for international trade could be reduced. These planning and infrastructure improvements would be a boost to all three national economies” (Villa & Rothe, 2007, p. ix).

Cost of Expansion

A major pitfall to a project of this magnitude is the cost associated with expansion. This north-south corridor is massive and is dubbed by NASCO as being “the largest engineering project ever undertaken in the U.S.” (Taylor, 2007, p. 17). The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to spend an estimated $200 million on I-35 preservation projects through 2030, in addition to over $1 billion on I-35 mobility projects with an additional $3 billion projected for other mobility projects (Corridors of the Future Application, 2006). According to the Texas DOT, Texas has already devoted more than $1 billion dollars toward the improvement of I-35 (Trans Texas Corridor-35 Final Environmental Impact Statement, 2010). These numbers are only reflective of costs in two states and a small percentage of the total expense that would be associated with a project of this caliber.

Displacement of the Residents

Another disadvantage to this project is displacement of residents in the proposed path of these intended expansion projects. Along portions of I-35, the road will be expanded to a “4-football-field-long swath which will include separate lanes for passenger vehicles (three in each direction) and trucks (two in each direction), six rail lines, and a 200-foot utility zone for oil and gas pipelines, alongside of electricity towers (Peterson, 2007). Due to physical requirements needed to accommodate a project of this size, it is estimated that this project will displace nearly a million residents in Texas alone. That number represents nearly four times the Louisiana residents that were displaced due to Hurricane Katrina and would consume more than 500,000 acres in Texas (Trans Texas Corridor-35 Final Environmental Impact Statement, 2010).

Security Issues

Another major issue introduced with the implementation of this project concerned the potential security risk that could be difficult to control. Some concerns are introduced by this streamlined approach to increase our country’s supply chain performance. By relying on inspections on foreign soil performed by foreign workers in an effort to speed up the border delays, the U.S. allows the crucial border entry points to be controlled by foreign interests. The proposed method would allow products from countries, including China and India, to be received in Mexican ports, inspected by Mexican authorities, then sealed in containers and allowed to depart from the Mexican port going straight through U.S. border check points until reaching an inland port known as a Smart port. Coincidentally, the Smart Port is also run by Mexican officials (Taylor, 2007). The Smart port will be centrally located in Kansas, which is the heart of the United States. “Since 9/11, security concerns have understandably increased our border delays and intensified border risk for companies whose supply chains cross our internal borders” (Black, 2006, p. 12). The United States needs to keep very tight reins on border control due to the simple fact that it only takes one act of terrorism on U.S. soil to have a devastating effect on U.S. structure, stability, and morale.

Conclusion

The United States needs to implement projects such as the NASCA corridor for the betterment of the economy, both locally and nationally. The appropriate plans to fund and operate super highways such as NASCO would provide much needed economic growth and allow continued reign in the global market place. However, the advantages of a project such as this do not overshadow the concern over the disadvantages. Displacement of residents, associated costs with the expansion, and a realized security risk potential mean that the U.S. needs to remain focused on attaining its economic goals without “stepping in the mud” on the way.

References



Michael Kalil is the owner of MJK Construction which has been in business since January 2006. His company began as a builder of residential homes and has now ventured into the commercial market. He is currently pursuing a degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Mike resides in Arab, Alabama with his wife and young son.



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