Fran Sage, 2/7/08, Part Two

LA ENTRADA AT THE CROSSROADS, PART TWO

BY FRAN SAGE

At the February 19th hearing in Alpine, Brian Swindell and his HDR consulting team will present where they are in the feasibility study and where they will go next. They are at a juncture, the point where they will recommend whether the four lane La Entrada al Pacifico looks viable and the remainder of the study would work out the details on that assumption OR the point where they have determined the four lane route is not feasible and the remainder of the study would focus on local area safety and mobility issues. While some number crunching remains to be done, the recommendation will be ready at the upcoming meeting. The decision, however, will not be firm until public responses have been heard and any revisions made in light of that response have been completed. The consulting team has gathered enough data to feel confident in their method and statistical model projecting the freight diversion growth through the port of Presidio.

 

Citizens at the four meetings will be elated or upset or possibly in some cases indifferent.

Those of us in the tri-city area of Alpine, Fort Davis, and Marfa hope that the results of the La Entrada study indicate that minimal freight traffic will be coming our way, and that the need to plan for a continuing threat from significantly increased truck traffic will fade away. One caution however, with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) functioning, we can expect growth even if the Mexican route does not happen.

 

Readers may go to the La Entrada website for the Executive Summary, the full report, a list of the sources, a discussion of the methodology and the conclusions, though the recommendation on where to go from here will not be available until the meeting.

 

Note that the report is primarily a statistical study, though some other factors have been taken into account. The Freight Forecast Results are presented for three possible results:

 

(1) A “no build scenario with no significant highway improvements to the LEAP Corridor on either the U. S. or Mexican side of the border;

(2) Completion of Mexican port and highway prior to 2020;

(3) Completion of Mexican port and highway after 2030. The study’s projected limit is 2030.

Below is a table illustrating the number of trucks for each scenario.

 

COMPARISON OF ANTICIPATED FREIGHT FORECASTS

THROUGH PRESIDIO

Average Annual Daily Truck Traffic

Scenario Considered

Description

2010

2015

2020

2025

2030

Baseline

· Internal Mexico Growth

44

60

82

112

152

Prior to 2020

· All necessary Mexico Infrastructure completed prior to the year 2020

· Diversion from other Ports of Entry

· Internal Mexico Growth

47

125

195

456

739

After 2030

· Diversion from other Ports of Entry

· Internal Mexico Growth

· Mexican Route not completed by 2030

47

125

174

243

338

Because traffic forecasts have an element of uncertainty, the projections could overestimate or underestimate future traffic within the timeframe. Therefore, a threshold table will serve as a safeguard; that is, no action would be taken unless future activity indicates that the threshold would soon be reached. The threshold discussion will be general with a closer look later when needed. The table will show varying levels of congestion.

 

Before going further in our discussion, we need to remind ourselves that what led to this study in the first place was the growing belief that United States ports of entry would reach capacity and that Mexican ports would be developed to gain the trade currently passing into the United States. The NAFTA agreement would allow traffic to flow in from Mexico at various border ports of entry.

 

The team looked first at possible diversion of Asian goods from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in California. Judgments were made as to how much of that trade might come to the Port of Topolobampo, assuming that the necessary work had been completed at the port. That is a major assumption and is dependent 1) on the expansion of the port facilities (including container terminals) and the dredging of the port to accommodate larger container vessels; and 2) improvements to the Mexican highway between Topolobampo and Chihuahua City including through Copper Canyon.

 

But the team needed to look at other variables such as the Lazaro Cárdenas port further down the Mexican west coast, currently being expanded with a new terminal and port facilities and connections to a rail route across Mexico and into Texas at Laredo. Other variables include the potential for the Puerto Colonet on the Pacific coast of Baja California being developed. It would be a huge port that could handle sizeable amounts of trade currently going to Los Angeles and Long Beach. The port at Manzanilla much further down the Mexican west coast was also considered.

 

The team also assessed the Texas Gulf Coast Ports and other ports of entry into Texas, looking at how much traffic would be diverted.

 

In terms of Mexican freight growth, the team assessed the overall economic growth in Mexico and the impact of this growth on freight destined to the U. S. In addition, recent trends for maquiladoras were considered.

 

I recommend looking at the Executive Summary for discussion of these efforts.

 

Next week I will discuss other items for discussion at the February 19th meeting including safety and mobility improvement and alternative routes.

 

I URGE ALL CITIZENS TO COME TO THE MEETINGS, LISTEN TO THE PRESENTATION AND ASK QUESTIONS AND COMMENT. BOTH THE CONSULTING TEAM AND TxDOT KNOW THAT THE TRI CITY AREAS IN THE BIG BEND OPPOSE THE LA ENTRADA. THE TASK NOW AT HAND IS TO UNDERSTAND THE FREIGHT GROWTH PROJECTIONS AND RAISE ANY MATTERS RELATED TO THEM.

 

The public meetings are scheduled as follows:

Alpine: Tuesday February 19, 2008, SRSU, Marshall Auditorium 6 pm

Presidio: Wednesday February 20, 2008, Presidio High School 1000 E. FM 170 6 pm

Midland: Monday, February 25, 2008, Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) University of Texas at the Permian

Basin 6 pm

Ft. Stockton: Tuesday February 26, 2008, Ft. Stockton High School, 1200 W. 17th Street, 6 pm

All of these articles when finished will be posted to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club website at http://texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend/ and to the Stewards of the Big Bend website www.stopthetrucks.org .

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