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What Is TIFIA and Why Should You Care?

In 1998, Congress authorized the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA)—a federal credit assistance program for large-scale surface transportation projects. The goal of the program is to leverage federal dollars by attracting private and other nonfederal coinvestment in critical improvements to the nation’s surface transportation system. Administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Innovative Program Delivery, TIFIA offers state and local government competitive loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit for major highway, transit, railroad, ports, and other surface transportation projects.

Congress designed the credit program to assist state and local entities that experienced difficulty seeking financing for large-scale surface transportation projects attached to user-backed revenue sources, such as tolls. TIFIA credit assistance is often accessible on more valuable terms than in the financial market, making it possible to obtain financing for needed projects when it might not otherwise be possible. According to the DOT, each dollar of federal funds can provide up to $10 in TIFIA credit assistance and support up to $30 in transportation infrastructure investment. The program also helps to finance large-scale projects with enormous public benefit at relatively lower public risk, and jump-starts projects quicker than traditional transportation funding would allow.

TIFIA dollars are helping to rebuild and improve our nation’s aging infrastructure and are transforming the nation’s transportation enterprise. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) continued the program’s success, allocating nearly $1.75 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. MAP-21 also encompassed substantive policy changes to the program, such as increasing the permissible TIFIA loan amount from 33 percent to 49 percent of the project cost. As of February 2014, DOT has approved 41 TIFIA loans totaling more than $15 billion in credit assistance  supporting more than $59 billion in project costs.

Large cities, small towns, rural and urban communities are experiencing the positive impact of TIFIA with new, large-scale transportation projects improving mobility and safety for American commuters. For example, current TIFIA projects include:

  • The Downtown Crossing: a new bridge facility across the Ohio River, and associated roadway and facilities connecting Louisville, Kentucky, and Clark County, Indiana.
  • The Triangle Expressway: a 18.8-mile expressway to relieve congestion on existing north–south routes serving the Research Triangle Park region between Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, as well as improvements to commuter mobility.
  • The Eagle Project: a voter-approved program to expand rail and bus transits throughout the Denver metropolitan region.
  • Presidio Parkway: a replacement of Doyle Drive, a 1.6-mile segment of Route 101 in San Francisco that is the southern access to the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting Marin and San Francisco Counties and providing a major regional traffic link between the peninsula and North Bay Area counties.

Currently, TIFIA financing has been used mainly for large-scale transportation projects. However, legislation is moving through Congress that would establish a pilot program to use TIFIA financing for smaller bicycle and pedestrian projects. Because of TIFIA’s success in the transportation arena, other policy proposals are also eyeing TIFIA-like financing mechanisms for water infrastructure and park infrastructure projects.

As Congress begins its work on developing the legislative framework to reauthorize the nation’s surface transportation programs, which expire on September 30, TIFIA will likely be included in any new measure. ASLA Advocacy Day 2014 will provide an opportunity for landscape architects to share with legislators an “on-the-ground” perspective and analysis of active transportation projects and to highlight examples of how landscape architects can use TIFIA and other transportation programs to improve public safety, protect natural resources, and sustain natural and built environments. As stakeholders, ASLA advocates can play a major role to ensure that essential legislative priorities important to the landscape architecture profession are included in the final comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization legislation.

For more information on ASLA’s transportation priorities, visit us HERE.

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