MARC is an association of local governments for the bi-State Kansas City metropolitan area, an area encompassing eight counties, 114 cities, and a population of about 1.6 million. As a designated metropolitan planning organization for this region, MARC has worked closely with the State and local governments, transit operators, private sector businesses and the general public to forge a transportation plan for the region and the target transportation investments in ways that foster important community goals and objectives.
ISTEA empowered organizations like MARC to become key participants in the transportation decision-making process while promoting effective partnerships with other levels of government and maintaining effective public involvement. We have also been active in building with the private sector in our process, particularly in the area of intermodal freight. Three years ago MARC undertook an extensive study of freight transportation in cooperation with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. This landmark study resulted in the creation of the Heartland Freight Coalition, and now MARC also has a standing Goods Movement Committee to provide broad-based input on freight transportation needs.
In the true spirit of intermodalism, we have currently as of the first of the year restructured many of our transportation committees to provide not only with the freight community, other business and private sectors as air community, bike and pedestrian as well as the highway users.
In short, we believe that ISTEA has been a success, and that its basic principles and features should be continued. Over the past several months MARC has worked closely with our sister agency in St. Louis, the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council and the Missouri Department of Transportation to forge a unified position on ISTEA reauthorization. A policy statement has been developed and approved by all of these participants. Although additional changes and refinements are still being discussed, we hope to secure endorsements of the policy statement by other interested groups so that Missouri can truly speak with one voice as the dialogue on reauthorization proceeds.
A similar effort is now under way in Kansas, and we anticipate that a consensus policy statement will emerge within the next few weeks from that process as well.
We have also presented our Missouri consensus position to our national organization AMPO, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, as well as our Governor, Governor Carnahan, has presented his position to the National Governors' Association, and both of those organizations received the position very warmly.
The Missouri policy statement contains ten specific points, several of which I would like to highlight for you. Firstly, we believe there continues to be a compelling national interest in making sure that the nation's transportation infrastructure performs effectively including, both metropolitan and interregional systems.
Secondly, we believe that the new apportionment formulas should be developed for the long term to better reflect the national interest. Minimum returns to states based upon their contributions to the national trust funds should be a long-term consideration but not a dominant factor in the allocation of funds. During this transition to a new set of formulas, we do support a short-term formula that sets aside funds for interstate restoration and bridge replacement and repair, and that guarantees states a minimum return of 95 percent of the relative amount contributed to the Highway Trust Fund.
The policy recommends that the extension of ISTEA requires state, in consultation with metropolitan planning organizations like MARC, to develop a method for allocating all Federal funds within each state. This will allow metropolitan areas to make more accurate projections of the available funds and develop more realistic regional plans and programs. This process truly brings decision-making to the level closest to the citizens and the users of our systems.
The policy also supports continuation of the basic program structure of ISTEA, and we believe that the reauthorization of ISTEA should maintain the act's focus on intermodalism and on the cooperative decision-making process among states and local communities working under the auspices of metropolitan planning organizations. We also believe that the state-wide planning requirements of ISTEA, which incorporate the outcomes of metropolitan plans and programs should be retained.
Air quality is an issue of considerable importance in this region. As a maintenance area threatened with future violations of Federal air quality standards, the Kansas City metropolitan area has been working diligently to enact measures to preserve our clean air status. Yet because we are designated as a maintenance area, just prior to the enactment of ISTEA, we received no CMAQ funds on the Missouri side and only a minimum allocation on the Kansas side.
Newly designated maintenance areas were allowed to retain their CMAQ funds as a result of language included in the National Highway System Designation Act. This change did not, however, benefit the Kansas City region. We believe that the CMAQ program should be revised to provide funding to all maintenance areas so that flexible funding is available to support our continuing emissions reduction efforts.
Similarly, the policy supports continuation of funding for Transportation Enhancements. However, we strongly believe that these programs should reflect and clearly benefit transportation systems and users.
Finally, I would emphasize that the policy supports taking the national highway and transit trust funds off-budget, the transfer of 4.3 cents used for deficit reduction back to the Highway Trust Fund and setting the authorization levels to spend down excess fund reserves. We recognize, however, that these decisions must be made in the context of overall strategies to reduce the Federal deficit. As a first step towards this, the MARC Board of Directors has gone on record in support of the proposed Highway Trust Fund Integrity Act of 1997 co-sponsored by Senator Bond and Senator Chafee. Several local governments in this region are currently considering resolutions in support of this legislation. And I have brought five or six of those with me today and several will be forthcoming.
We are proud to have played a role in forging this consensus position and hope it's helpful to you in this arduous task of reconciling the many competing interests involved with reauthorization. If we can be of any assistance to you in this process, we would be happy to do that, happy to answer any questions.