Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Transportation Infrastructure Can Help Attract Industry

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Transportation Infrastructure Can Help Attract Industry

Article excerpt

Bridge reconstruction, highway& maintenance, changing the way the federal government returns gasoline tax money and advertising what's already in place are some of the major issues facing transportation in Oklahoma this year. Whether these can all be solved depends upon a number of things, mostly money. Still, two top state officials who have a hand in transportation issues say Oklahoma is in good shape, and with its transportation infrastructure, the state can attract new industry. Beyond these issues is one of highway safety which has a major effect on economic development, according to Lt. Gov. Jack Mildren. "Safety issues are on the minds of citizens right along with the quality of roads," Mildren said. "Safety on the highway is important; people ask if there are enough highway patrol troopers to handle traffic. This is cloaked in the law- and-order issue, which goes a long way in attracting new industry. "When industry looks at a new location, they look at crime statistics. What is the crime rate within a particular community, what is the state prison population and how safe are the streets are all legitimate concerns businesses have for their employees. "That ranks right up there with quality of education, parks and cultural and entertainment events." Mildren, who chairs the state's unique Trucking Industry Self-funded Research and Development (TISRAD) Commit- tee, feels highways, or the lack of them, play a major role in economic develop- ment. "Economic development has a lot of tentacles within the state," he said. "There is no clear-cut idea of just what economic development is. Everything affects economic development. "But Oklahoma has so many assets, so many benefits for industry and business that we must solve some of these problems to attract new business." To illustrate his point that economic development has many tentacles, he told about receiving several letters from people driving through the state who complained about the lack of rest stops on major highways. In fact one person wanted to know what kind of state we have. The first three signs on the highway from Texas informed motorists that there was a rest stop ahead with no facilities. The second sign warned motorists not to drive into smoke. The third sign warned drivers not to pick up hitchhikers; it might be an escaped convict. " `What kind of state is this?' the person asked," Mildren said. "If that person had been planning a move to Oklahoma or was looking for a place to locate a business, Oklahoma would not have been first choice." One of the biggest issues facing Oklahoma's transportation system right now is the ratio by which the Federal Highway Administration allocates& money from the trust fund which pays for interstate and United States high- ways. All this money comes from gasoline taxes paid by drivers when they refuel. Since 1956 Oklahoma has been a donor state, in that Oklahoma motorists paid more in taxes to the federal government than was returned in the form of matching funds for highway projects, said Mildren and Transporta- tion Secretary Delmas Ford. "For every $1 that we (Oklahoma motorists) send to Washington, we've gotten back about 84 cents since 1982," Ford said. "In just the last couple of years, we've sent Washington $245 million a year and gotten back $206 million. "There are bills in Congress right now to reauthorize the interstate highways bill, which changes that ratio to a lot of states. …
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