Rails to Trails Conservancy – Innovative Transportation Financing

 

Working on behalf of the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC), Summit Strategies and O’Keeffe Strategies teamed together to successfully advocate for changes to our Nation’s primary federal loan program providing innovative financing for transportation projects.  Prior to recent passage of the FAST Act, the minimum project size for Transportation Infrastructure Financing Investment Act (TIFIA) funded projects was $50 million. This threshold was above the cost of most trail and active-transportation projects and other smaller-scale infrastructure projects, resulting in limited access. Through Summit and RTC’s efforts, we were able to revise the project size thresholds and other changes to the TIFIA Program. These changes make this alternative financing option more available and attractive for smaller projects.

The four primary improvements to the TIFIA Program that were achieved in the FAST Act include:

  • Lowering of minimum project size from $50 million to $10 million for projects involving local governments. This is significant, as active-transportation projects infrastructure rarely meet the higher cost threshold.
  • Multiple segments of a network can be bundled into a single project (called a “Master Credit Agreement”) to meet the $10 million threshold, making it possible for communities to complete projects faster.
  • The application process is streamlined for low-cost, low-risk projects—like trail networks—to reduce the transaction costs and make it affordable to participate in TIFIA. In addition, at least $2 million per year will be available to defray application costs for smaller projects.
  • State Infrastructure Banks may use TIFIA funds to make financing more accessible for rural projects.