From Dreams to Nightmares
"The IT Project That Ate America"
On any given problem - and obviously, this is a big one, the only way to solve the problem is to get to the source of the problem - otherwise, you're like a doctor treating the symptoms of a disease and not treating the disease itself. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) is the disease. The Trans-Texas Corridor aka NAFTA Superhighway is a symptom and if you can make yourself stay awake through this webpage - and connected webpages, I promise you'll come away with a better idea of what needs to be done about it.
In the late 1960's there was a
program on television called "21st Century". It was
the era of dreamers with big dreams of what life would be
like in the 21st Century and this program was our window
into the future they saw.
I hadn't thought about that program in years until I started researching the NAFTA Superhighway. The NAFTA Superhighway is the implementation of one of the Big Dreams from the 1960's. The dream was an intelligent highway system with intelligent cars2 that would have collision detection and prevention systems; traffic flow control systems; your car would talk to you and tell you the best route to take and it would give you road conditions ahead. It was fantastic and just the prospect of it was exciting. But here we are in the 21st Century and we are facing the reality of the Big Dream becoming the Big Nightmare.
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency
The shift in transportation policy away from just building highways and moving us towards the 21st Century Nightmare began with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). In that legislation, Congress declared the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (Interstate System) complete and the 'National Highway System (NHS)' was created. The NHS included not only the Interstate System but also the feeder routes (urban and rural) leading to principal arterials and highways (including toll facilities), ports, airports, public transportation facilities, and other intermodal transportation facilities.
In the legislation, the purpose was described thusly:
It doesn't seem out of line to consider that the ISTEA legislation federalized the entire U.S. system of roads because all roads feed into - or lead to one of the major hubs mentioned above - except perhaps for Alaska where they have a road to nowhere. Maybe that was an act of rebellion on the part of Alaskans.
The 1992, IVHS Strategic Plan produced by the Intelligent Highway Systems (IVHS) was requested by the DOT.
This group was essentially given carte blanch to redesign America's transportation and border infrastructure for the purpose of building world's first fully automated, advanced technology highways and facilities, managed by information and control systems.
And it was always planned as an international project even though there were no agreements in place for it except the Canadian FTA. In fact, one has to wonder if Dallas wasn't chosen for the initial project (Mobility 2000) because it was one of the principal international routes.
The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-59) that was signed by President Clinton on November 28, 199512
SEC. 359. MISCELLANEOUS
Intermodal Surface Transportation
Efficiency Act of 19911
SEC. 2. DECLARATION OF POLICY: INTERMODAL
It is the policy of the United States to develop a
National Intermodal Transportation System that is
economically efficient and environmentally sound,
provides the foundation for the Nation to compete
in the global economy, and will move people and
goods in an energy efficient manner.
The National Intermodal Transportation System shall provide improved access to ports and airports, the Nation's link to world commerce.
The National Intermodal Transportation System shall be adapted to ``intelligent vehicles'', ``magnetic levitation systems'', and other new technologies wherever feasible and economical, with benefit cost estimates given special emphasis concerning safety considerations and techniques for cost allocation.
Mobility 2000 was the name of the Dallas-Fort Worth federally mandated, regional transportation study that was completed in 1986. Two years later, after a conference attended by various groups involved in road and traffic management, a national special interest group was formed. They named themselves Mobility 2000.3
"In 1988, Mobility 2000 was formed to develop a national program of automated highway technology, which eventually evolved into Intelligent Transportation systems (ITS). Mobility was the organizational precursor to ITS America, of which AASHTO [American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials] was a founding member"4.
"Founded in 1988, Mobility 2000 was an informal assembly of industry, university, and government representatives created to promote the use of advanced technologies to improve highway safety and efficiency. The initiative was formalized in 1991, when the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) was enacted, and the national Intelligent Vehicle Highway System (IVHS) program was established. A growing sense soon developed in the IVHS community, especially in the public transit arena, that “intelligent vehicle highway systems” did not embrace all the transportation modes addressed in the national IVHS program. In 1994, the national IVHS program was renamed the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), to clarify the multi-modal intent."5
"In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) provided this initial funding and authorized the organization to be a Federal Advisory Committee to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Among its first major tasks was the development of a strategic plan for ITS deployment in the U.S. The document was a collaborative effort among the organization’s membership and the U.S. DOT set a national framework for guiding the development of intelligent transportation systems."6
* * * * *
"The mission of the IVHS community in the U.S. - composed of all levels of government; the automotive, electronic, communications, and information industries; and academia - is first, to improve surface transportation by deploying IVHS technology broadly throughout the nation and, in cooperation with Mexico and Canada, throughout North America, and second, to develop a U.S.-based IVHS industry to provide technology in the U.S. and abroad."7
The following is an excerpt from
a letter written by Federico Peña, Secretary of
Transportation to Senator John Chafee, Chairman of the
Committee on Public Works and the Environment in 1996
concerning a report regarding highway designations for the
National Highway System:
"Spending authority for the ITS program grew from $20 million in 1991 to $227.5 million in 1995. For the 1991-1995 period, the Congress has voted $827.6 million, and by the end of fiscal year 1994 the Department of Transportation had obligated $544 million for the program (see Summary Table 1)." 11
So if the National Highway System isn't just highways, then what is it? Click HERE to continue
1) U.S. Dept of Transportation, Research
and Innovation Technology Administration (RITA), H.R. 2950 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991