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Improved trade, transportation top local officials' concerns

July 20, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

It's not that nobody cares about increased trade and transportation from California to Texas, but what locals really wanted to know was what is going to be done locally to improve trade and transportation.

At least that's what was said as representatives of the Imperial Valley's various cities peppered an economist from the Southern California Association of Governments with questions at Thursday's quarterly meeting of the local League of Cities.

Bruce DeVine, the chief economist with SCAG, was at the meeting to introduce what's known as the Southwest Compact, a proposal to improve highways, air corridors, railroads, economic development and infrastructure.

"We have an important project in mind and we need the support of all the important border areas, including Mexico," DeVine said before his presentation. "This is something that we've worked on for a couple of years now and it's beginning to be implemented."


The Southwest Compact would include what DeVine called city-states: Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, and the six northern states of Mexico, Baja California, Sonora Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. The area would be much larger than that identified as the "border region" in the North American Free Trade Agreement, 100 kilometers on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

DeVine said the Southwest Compact, to succeed, must first receive the designation of "high- priority corridor" from the U.S. secretary of transportation. That would allow the project to receive federal funds for the coordinated planning, design and construction of corridors of national significance, economic growth and international and interregional trade.

DeVine said the region's importance can be seen by its population, number of jobs and the projected growth of each. He said on the U.S. side, the population was 26.1 million in 1990 and estimated to be 34.4 million by 2010, or about 11.3 percent of the total U.S. population. The number of jobs in the U.S. region was 14.7 million in 1990 and estimated to be 19 million by 2010, or about 10.8 percent of total U.S. jobs.

For Mexico, the region's population was 13.2 million in 1990 and estimated to be 22.7 million by 2010, or 18.3 percent of Mexico's total population. The number of jobs in the Mexico region was 4.1 million in 1990 and estimated at 6.7 million by 2010, or 22.8 percent of the total.

"We don't expect Southern Californians to object to any of this," DeVine said.

El Centro City Councilman David Dhillon, the area's representative on SCAG, said the purpose of the presentation was to raise awareness among local elected officials and the media to become familiar with the Southwest Compact.

"The idea is to have the compact begin here, to create a coalition of support for this endeavor, that I think SCAG and a lot of other associations of governments are going to embrace," Dhillon said.

When the presentation was over, Calexico Public Works Director Mariano Martinez said he was not concerned with the compact but would like to know what SCAG is doing to promote improved highways from the Mexican border to Interstate 8.

Calexico City Manager Rich Inman added that the U.S. General Services Administration built a new port of entry without the proper infrastructure to support it.

DeVine said he thought SCAG was instrumental in getting some of the pending improvements in the Calexico area and that any remaining issues are local.

In other League of Cities business, Brawley Mayor Wayne Johnson announced the B.P. Ventures beef plant will be called Brawley Beef.

Westmorland City Councilman John Makan announced a 100-room motel aimed at the trucking business will be built there.

Mayor Cheryl Walker was elected president of the local league and Calipatria Mayor Fred Beltrán was elected vice president.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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