Cheap Federal Loans Key to Infrastructure

Paper urges Biden Administration to leverage potential for $100 billion in loans

HSR construction in Kern County. Photo: CAHSRA
HSR construction in Kern County. Photo: CAHSRA

Cities in the Bay Area should work with the incoming Biden Administration to free up $100 billion in low-cost loans that can go to infrastructure projects, including rail and transit. The loans can be key to rebuilding and expanding transportation systems, according to a recent white paper from the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. More importantly, there’s no need for new legislation: these funds can be put into play immediately by the new administration.

From “Financing America’s Infrastructure Needs with Low-Cost Federal USDOT Loans,” written by Martin Klepper:

There is a growing national awareness of the critical importance of rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Delay increases a project’s costs and defers such economic benefits as new jobs, increased tax revenues, improved safety, and a cleaner environment. The Biden Administration can help solve these infrastructure needs without waiting for new legislation by making available tens of billions of dollars in financing for transportation infrastructure across the US. No further Congressional action is required: the funding has already been appropriated. New leadership at the Department of Transportation (DOT) can make these funds available for qualified projects beginning January 20th, 2021.

The advantages of the loan program include:

  • The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIAcurrently has approximately $70 billion of unused loan capacity. TIFIA borrowers may include local governments, state departments of transportation, transit agencies, and other agencies who will build, own, operate, and finance projects in partnership with local governments.
  • The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Act (RRIF) currently has approximately $30 billion of unused loan capacity. RRIF loans are primarily for railroad infrastructure projects. RRIF borrowers can include private owners of railroads and governments, among others.

The paper is available to the public here.

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