Cornyn, Kaine Introduce Legislation to Reform TIFIA Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) today introduced the Revitalizing American Priorities for Infrastructure Development (RAPID) Act, which would encourage greater participation in the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program by expediting projects meeting certain specifications and ensure Congress, applicants, and the public are well-informed about projects seeking funding.
“The TIFIA program is an invaluable tool for state and local governments to update their transportation infrastructure in a fiscally responsible way, but the current process can be arduous and lengthy,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This legislation includes commonsense changes to make the process faster, more accessible, and more transparent.”
“Critical projects like the Silver Line, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, HOT lanes on I-495, and so many others in Virginia were made possible with the assistance of federally-backed TIFIA loans. In a world where transportation needs consistently outpace available dollars, these loans unlock more transportation investments, which in turn pay off by improving daily life for Virginians,” Sen. Kaine said. “These carefully targeted changes will make it easier, faster, and more cost effective for communities to finance key transportation projects with TIFIA loans, while also maintaining rigorous loan standards.”
In the transportation sector, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program helps finance surface transportation projects of national or regional significance through direct loans, loan guarantees, or lines of credit. With diminishing Highway Trust Fund revenue and increasingly tight state budgets, public sources of funds for transportation can be difficult to secure. When operating at maximum efficiency, the TIFIA program can serve as a valuable component to address our nation’s infrastructure.
The RAPID Act would make a number of notable changes to streamline the TIFIA program:
In order to be eligible for federal assistance under TIFIA, an application’s senior debt obligations must obtain investment grade ratings from at least two nationally recognized credit rating agencies. The process of securing these ratings can be a lengthy and expensive, which may not always be necessary for low-risk projects. The RAPID Act would raise this threshold for securing multiple credit rating agency opinions from $75 million to $150 million, reducing the overall review timeline and potentially encouraging greater participation in the program.
Expedited Application Process:
The FAST Act required USDOT to establish a fast-track application process for projects that meet certain criteria. Unfortunately, this streamlined process has been underutilized and has not met congressional intent. The RAPID Act legislation would add the new criteria to the streamlined application process, increasing the likelihood that the Build America Bureau will be comfortable moving qualifying projects through the process expeditiously.
Process Reports and Status Updates:
The bill would increase overall transparency in the process by ensuring applicants, the general public, and Congress are well-informed regarding projects seeking TIFIA assistance by requiring USDOT to publish status reports online.