With industry and state officials pressing for faster U.S. Dept. of Transportation action on Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, DOT is taking steps to speed its reviews for the aid, which is viewed as a critical part of financing packages for major highway, bridge and other infrastructure projects.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leaders also are weighing in on ways to accelerate the flow of TIFIA funds. At her panel’s July 24 oversight hearing on TIFIA, committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said, “We’ve got to get those dollars out the door, make sure they’re the right dollars, but get them out the door because we need the jobs” the projects create.
TIFIA, created in 1998, got a huge lift in last year’s Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which hiked direct federal TIFIA subsidies to $750 million this year and $1 billion in 2014, from $122 million in 2012.
States and localities have flocked to DOT's TIFIA loan window. So far this year, they have submitted a record $15.8 billion in TIFIA loan requests. They cover 31 projects, the estimated total cost of which is $42 billion.
But construction and financial firms as well as state transportation officials have been grumbling about their long wait in the queue.
New DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, the hearing’s lead witness, said his department has approved one TIFIA application so far this year—a $421-million loan for Southern California’s state Route 91 expansion—and expects to approve several additional loans this year.
Foxx, sworn in as secretary on July 2, said he has instructed DOT staffers who work on TIFIA “to try to get to yes on every application we get in.” However, he added, there may be projects DOT will determine it cannot approve.
Foxx said DOT wants to assist important projects but is “equally committed to provide TIFIA funding in a responsible and prudent manner that protects the taxpayers’ investment.”