|Ports-to-Plains Alliance unifies Heartland Expressway partners|
|10 25, 2012 Press Release||share via|
ALBERTA, Canada — The Ports-to-Plains Alliance recently held their 15th annual meeting in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. This was the first time the conference was held outside the United States. There were 221 attendees ranging from Canada to Mexico with the majority from Alberta and Texas. The Heartland Expressway Association, one of the three legs of the alliance in the United States was represented by three Nebraska attendees; Travis Hiner, long serving and outgoing Ports-to-Plains Board Member, Lane Danielzuk, City Administrator of Gering and Marlin Johnson, Planner for Scottsbluff and Alliance. Danielzuk is the newly elected Chairman of the Heartland Expressway Association and also replaces Travis on the Ports-to-Plains Board of Directors.
Much of the conference focused on the commitment to coordination and cooperation amongst all cities, town, counties, states, provinces and businesses along the entire length of the transportation corridor and the need to understand and promote that what is good for any entity along the way is good for the rest of the corridor communities.
What makes the potential of the alliance and the corridor economically supercharged is primarily due to natural energy components. We learned much about the oil sands of northern Alberta and their potential to represent the majority of economic growth for Canada in the next 30 years. The tremendous impacts of the Bakken Shale oil and gas boom in North Dakota are best connected to the corridor by the continued upgrade of infrastructure for the Heartland Expressway. The most direct route from Mexico and Texas to Canada via North Dakota is slated to be from the north end of the original Ports-to-Plains segment in Limon, Colo. north to Rapid City, S.D. via Brush, Colo., and Kimball, Scottsbluff, Gering, Alliance and Chadron in Nebraska.
The economic impact stretches to each side of the whole corridor as suppliers to energy development are located throughout the Ports-to-Plains regions. This includes businesses in researching, manufacturing, transportation, construction and others. The spin-off from enhanced transportation infrastructure is exemplified by a community like Limon, Colo. With fewer than 2000 people it has the second highest per capita sales tax in the state. As infrastructure is continually upgraded along the way the route will continue to gain importance and traffic volume as trading of more goods, particularly agricultural products, will be focused on the shortest, quickest and safest paths.
The commitment from Texas to upgrade their roads from the Mexican border to the Texas Panhandle was obvious and included pro-active involvement by New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado in those realms. The country of Mexico recently committed over one billion dollars to upgrade a stretch of highway from the Port of Mazatlan to the City of Durango, cutting an eight hour truck drive to a two and one half hour jaunt. Think of the increased traffic in products both directions, particularly perishables like produce, if the trip from Mexico to Canada and points between is hastened at a fraction of that gain because of such commitment from all of us in this alliance. The impact along the corridor for at least a hundred miles east and west will be further enhanced as Ports-to-Plains becomes the go-to route in the heartland.
This enhanced infrastructure will continue to connect the dots of our communities in a healthier fashion. Frankly, Colorado probably does not need nor want more heavy truck traffic on the I-25 corridor through Denver and Colorado Springs.
Historically and presently, thoughts of bypasses trigger a bad taste to many communities, but at some level traffic volumes can cause them to become relief. Cities in western North Dakota only wish they had constructed bypasses sooner. They are now committed to the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway to connect Rapid City to Canada through, and around, their communities.
The Heartland Expressway Association has strived for 25 years to advocate the benefits reflected in the ideals of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance, and though segments and significant stretches of the Heartland have reached fruition, it is far from completion. Since partnering with the alliance and the new expansion of our international neighbors and trading partners, advocating for our portions has become more important and beneficial for the long term future of our communities. This will continue to be a long, difficult and costly process to complete, but the plan must move forward in the interest of all communities to secure the long term gains of this generational investment.
Easy access to safer and less time-consuming transportation corridors will be instrumental in attracting businesses to locate in communities along the way. The same safety and convenience aspects will add to non-commercial drivers choosing these routes and the ability of tourists to access other pathways and associated treasures, locally and regionally.
While the alliance and the subsets are non-profit, the support of businesses along the way is a vital component. The Heartland Expressway Association would like to thank Aulick Leasing for providing the airplane and pilot to fly our three conference attendees to Havre, Montana and back, leaving a mere two and a half hour drive to Medicine Hat across country that could be reminiscent of portions of any of the states in the Ports-to-Plains Alliance.