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'Ports to Plains' a topic of trip to Washington
March 24, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

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Gering Mayor Ed Mayo recently returned from Washington, D.C., where one of the discussions was about the Ports to Plains Project.
Ports to Plains would create a highway transportation system from Canada, through the American heartland and down to Mexico. Sections have already been completed, including the Heartland Expressway through western Nebraska.
“Ten states are now involved with Ports to Plains,” Mayo said. “Montana is the one of the newer states to support it and the highway doesn’t even go through their state. But the highway is close enough that Montana would get some economic benefit from it.”
Mayo was in Washington to attend the National League of Cities Congressional Conference. He spoke with members of congress involved with the Heartland Expressway portion of the project, who in turn led him to other congressional members for more information and discussion.
“That turned out very beneficial for us,” Mayo said. “Out of the nine congressional members we talked with, two of them knew of the project and didn’t oppose it. The Ports to Plains Project was definitely intriguing to them.”
Mayo added that one member of Congress from Colorado wasn’t so sure about support until he learned the project would bring both transportation infrastructure and economic development. Oil and other energy transported from Canada would be routed away from the overcrowded Interstate 25 in Colorado.
“Out of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, we spoke with representatives of six,” Mayo said. “It was interesting to see their take on Ports to Plains once they realized how it would benefit them.”
As for the status of Ports to Plains, it’s in limbo as the federal government continues to operate under short-term congressional resolutions. Its status will remain unknown until congress passes an actual budget, expected in early April.
Mayo said with almost 1,900 people attending the conference, there were also opportunities to “compare notes” and discuss solutions to similar problems that local governments face throughout the country.
“There was a community in Alabama that had an old school they wanted to tear down and develop the property,” he said. “The contractor who purchased the building said he couldn’t do anything with it because of the asbestos, so he stopped paying for it and the bank repossessed it.”
Mayo added that situation was similar to Gering’s McKinley School building. He also warned them that once they pursued grant funding from their state, any number of restrictions could be added to how the property could be redeveloped.

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