The fact is that people are becoming more mobile every year. City limits are expanding and the population in the Midwest and beyond are booming. With urban sprawl, rural travel becomes urban travel and highway and transit traffic increase as people move to and from work. The passage of NAFTA and the globalization of the economy augmented international trade as well, bringing with it an increase in movement of foreign goods to all corners of the country. These goods travel on our highways, waterways, and railroads.
Oklahoma maintains all modes of transportation. Just north of Tulsa, is the Port of Catoosa, an inland international seaport. Barges, with loads of cargo ranging from metal products and building materials to wheat, use this port as a gateway to communities further inland. In the heart of America, Oklahoma's rails, highways and air space are constantly in use. But the interstate transportation system is not just about Oklahoma. It is about the nation being interconnected as a unit for the free flow of domestic as well as foreign commodities and people. That means a truck filled with Oklahoma peanuts can travel quickly and efficiently to a customer in Maine.
The entire transportation industry is estimated to comprise 17% of the United States economy. If for no other reason, we need to make sure that our programs are workable, efficient and intelligently funded. Transportation has shaped what our nation is today, and to continue to operate successfully, the system needs to be maintained.
I was a member of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee back when ISTEA was crafted in 1991. I think we an admirable job. However, the changing needs of our nation and its transportation system need to be reflected in updated formulas and programs. Last year I introduced a bill that would guarantee an 80% return on a State's transit funds. Oklahoma, like other states, is classified as a donor state in both highways and transit dollars. As we move through this reauthorization process, I will look forward to reworking the formulas established under ISTEA to make sure that donor states see a fair return on their contributions to the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account. Calculations used in the past served our nation for the time, but population growth and movement warrants a new approach.
I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses on just how the population has shifted and their recommendations on ways to meet the new demands as a result.