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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sens. Lautenberg, Rockefeller craft bill to help fund transportation projects

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday introduced the American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act of 2013, which would establish a $5 billion fund to help private, state and regional entities cover the cost of transportation projects nationwide.

Transportation infrastructure investments have lagged in recent decades and the nation has developed an investment backlog, the senators said in a joint statement.

"Notably, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates a cumulative five-year investment need of $2.2. trillion into our nation's rails, roads, bridges, ports, transit systems and other infrastructure in order to meet the needs of our country," they said.

The bill would:
• establish a fund — authorized at $5 billion for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 — within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to incentivize private investment in transportation projects;

• rely on on various tools, such as loans and loan guarantees, to provide financial assistance to eligible projects;

• define eligible types of projects, including rail lines, ports, bridges and public transportation systems; and
• authorize a multi-modal National Infrastructure Investment Grant program within the USDOT at $600 million for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 to provide funds for new transportation projects or to improve existing infrastructure.

"Investing in our nation's roads, rails, and runways will get people back to work, while spurring economic development and productivity," said Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate's Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. "This bill would establish a creative new way to leverage federal funding and increase investment in projects that will expand rail capacity."

All options "need to be on the table" to rebuild and expand rail systems, ports, highways and airports, said Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee.

"Right now, millions of dollars in private capital are parked on the sidelines. We need to leverage federal dollars through the infrastructure fund our bill creates to encourage private investment and fully meet our infrastructure needs," he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/1/2013