Cornyn, Kaine Introduce Bill to Strengthen Infrastructure Investment
by John Cornyn on February 6, 2019 at 3:08 PM
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and I today introduced the Revitalizing American Priorities for Infrastructure Development (RAPID) Act, which would streamline the application process for assistance under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and increase transparency in the vetting process for projects seeking TIFIA funds.
TIFIA loans have supported numerous important transportation projects in Texas, but the arduous application process has served as a roadblock for many state and local governments. This legislation will help communities in my state, and around the country, finance much-needed updates to their transportation infrastructure and improve American’s daily lives.
"The TIFIA program has facilitated critical projects in Virginia, like the Silver Line and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, to improve daily life for families across the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Kaine. Our legislation will make it easier for Virginia communities to use TIFIA loans to finance important infrastructure projects."
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.