Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Masters of illusion

Who needs Vegas? I think David Copperfield has been working some illusionary magic in the state of Alabama.

It seems that someone has kept a 300-mile toll road project hidden from public view for some time. Only a master of illusion like the guy who made the Statue of Liberty disappear and then reappear could perform a trick like that.

But a company called Ameri-Metro came forward this week, claiming to have been awarded a contract to begin building the $7 billion toll road as soon as next year. It would stretch from Orange Beach on the Gulf Coast to the Tennessee state line and include a railroad, an airport, an inland port, and industrial parks to boot.

Trouble is, the Alabama Department of Transportation knows nothing about the project or the company. Nada. Zilch. Never heard of it.

Ameri-Metro’s announcement hit everyone like a Copperfield reveal this week. Their trade secret of how they did it remains a mystery. The York, PA, company claims to have inked the deal with a quasi-governmental agency called Alabama Toll Facilities.

The state Legislature created Alabama Toll Facilities in 1993 to administer the Huntsville Toll Bridge and Highway Project. The agency’s duties are limited in scope. Ameri-Metro claims that a 2007 state law signed by Gov. Bob Riley gives Alabama Toll Facilities the right to sign the toll road deal in question.

It’s anyone’s guess how Ameri-Metro got this far without anyone picking up on their plan. After all, it would be one of the largest and most ambitious toll roads in North American history. To get a job like that done requires a lot more than smoke and mirrors.

Land Line Now called the company but reached an answering machine and was asked to leave a message at the beep. Another act of stealth, perhaps?

We do know this. If this project does somehow advance, toll opponents and landowners are going to wish it was just an illusion.

If the road builders do indeed have Copperfield on their side, perhaps the opponents could counter with Criss Angel to try and make this thing disappear for good.