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May 11, 2010 12:00 PM, EDT

Mexican Cross-Border Plan Coming Soon, LaHood Says

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a Senate subcommittee the Obama administration soon will unveil its plan to relaunch a cross-border trucking program along the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

“Our intention . . . is to restart this program,” LaHood said at a Thursday hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s transportation and housing panel.

 

“It is a part of [the North America Free Trade Agreement]. It needs to be restarted,” he said.

 

When asked by Subcommittee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) when the administration would unveil its play, LaHood said it was “very close. . . . It is closer than soon.”

 

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is scheduled to meet with President Obama in Washington next week. Murray said Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, has said that Calderon plans to raise the issue during the visit.

 

“We are hoping that with [Calderon] coming later this month that we can have a resolution of this,” Murray said.

 

Mexican trucks are allowed to operate in a zone of about 25 miles on the American side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the Bush administration, the Department of Transportation began a pilot program in 2007 to allow some Mexican carriers free access to all U.S. roads.

 

The Obama administration suspended that program in March 2009 and a group of Mexican carriers last year sued the U.S. for $6 billion for violating NAFTA provisions.