WASHINGTON, DC—After nearly nine years of construction, the Mexi-Canadian Overpass, the controversial $4.3 trillion highway overpass linking Guadalupe and Winnipeg, was finally completed last week, drawing harsh criticism from U.S. citizens and officials alike.
"If you're a Mexican who regularly commutes to Canada, or vice-versa, this is great. But what about all of us poor Americans caught in the middle?" said Dallas resident Tom Hitchner, one of an estimated 850,000 U.S. citizens forced to evacuate their homes to make room for concrete supports for the 1,600-mile, 18-lane overpass. "For Mexico and Canada to do this without any concern for all the Americans whose lives this affects, well, the arrogance is just unbelievable."
"We just recently installed beautiful picture windows in our home," said Fargo, ND, resident Judy Renata, whose house is situated beneath the overpass. "Now, instead of sunlight, we have to look at that monstrosity. We'd sell our place and move elsewhere, but property values have plummeted. I don't know what we're going to do."
In addition to facilitating trade between Mexico and Canada, the overpass is expected to increase tourism in both nations by as much as 60 percent. Boasting hundreds of restaurants, gas stations, and hotels, the state-of-the-art overpass will render it unnecessary for Mexicans or Canadians ever to touch U.S. soil when traveling to and from their respective homelands.
"It would be one thing if we somehow benefited," said Junction City, KS, business owner Neil Grandy. "But because of the way stations, we don't get anything out of it and have to deal with people tossing garbage out of their windows at 80 mph. You wouldn't believe what we've found some mornings. Everything from tamale husks to broken hockey sticks. The people on that bridge are animals."
Americans' hostility toward the overpass only intensified when it officially opened to traffic Monday.
"The noise and dirt of the construction was one thing," said San Antonio, TX, resident Floyd Paymer. "But now, with all the traffic, it's just unbearable. The honking, the chickens, the sound of thousands of cars going back and forth to Canada and Mexico is more than I can take. I can hear those goddamn radios blaring Mariachi music and Rush all day and night."
Despite the public uproar, U.S. leaders say they are helpless to do anything to stop the international project.
"I called up the governments of Canada and Mexico, and, after a lot of runaround, I was informed that the overpass was 'regrettable but necessary,'" Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "We have a petition circulating in the affected areas of the U.S., but since the overpass is already complete, I doubt it will do much good."
The overpass is expected to significantly strengthen Mexican-Canadian relations.
"We thought it would be easier to facilitate cultural and economic exchange if the hassle of driving through the U.S. was eliminated," said Mexican president Vicente Fox, downing a shot of Labatts tequila, a new product from the Canadian brewer. "After we started discussing the overpass, it didn't make sense not to do it. Now that it's finished, I can't believe we didn't think of it years ago."
U.S. opposition to the overpass began even before construction began in the summer of 1993. Protests have ranged from thousands of residents linking arm-in-arm in front of bulldozers on both borders to a strongly worded 2001 condemnation from President Bush.
Bush later reconsidered after meeting with Fox and Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien.
"I don't know what happened in that meeting," Vice President Dick Cheney said. "One moment, George is talking about throwing everything we've got at Canada and Mexico. The next thing you know, he's walking out of the meeting, muttering something about how it looks like we're just going to have to get used to the idea."
Fox said the damage to relations with the U.S. is "lamentable" but "inconsequential when compared to the benefits."
"The Mexi-Canadian Overpass is not merely a bridge made of concrete and steel, but a metaphoric bridge bringing our two great nations together," Fox said. "At long last, the people of Canada and Mexico can finally begin to forge the sort of friendship and understanding that was impossible as long as the U.S. stood between us. This is the dawn of a wondrous new era for the people of Canada and Mexico."