The immensely popular Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which provides federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit for eligible surface transportation projects, has dramatically expanded funding for FY 2013 and 2014.
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which took effect on October 1, has increased funding for TIFIA (with extra funding from the Federal Transportation Agency and the Federal Highway Administration), authorizing $750 million in FY 2013—up from $122 million in years past—and $1 billion in FY 2014 to pay the subsidy cost of supporting federal credit, with the billion-dollar authorization supporting about $10 billion in actual lending capacity.
Additional changes include a 10 percent set-aside for rural projects, an increase in the share of eligible project costs that TIFIA may support, and a change in the application process from one based on project selection criteria to a rolling, first-come, first-served basis, which some have critiqued as turning TIFIA into a bank loan program with credit worthiness as a prime determinant.
Others have applauded the shift as a boon to cash-strapped cities. A good article on the topic centers on Los Angeles's Measure R, which passed with a supermajority of 68% in 2008 to use local taxes to generate $40 billion over the next 30 years. With TIFIA support, Los Angeles can expedite the transit project—finishing it in 10 years instead of 30—by borrowing money against the future revenues raised by the half-cent sales tax.
Pros and cons of the new TIFIA program aside, substantive LOIs are already rolling in, with projected project costs totaling some $27.5 billion. So interested transit agencies need to get going.
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