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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

BRIDGE Act proposes new federal financing authority for infrastructure improvements


U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) last week led a bipartisan coalition of 10 senators who introduced the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment Act, or BRIDGE Act.

The bill proposes to establish a new financing authority to help states and localities better leverage private funds to maintain and improve outdated transportation, water, wastewater and energy infrastructure. The authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to help states and localities fund rail, port, road, bridge and other significant infrastructure projects.

The authority would receive initial seed funding of up to $10 billion, which could incentivize private sector investment and potentially attract up to $300 billion for necessary infrastructure projects, Warner said in a press release. The BRIDGE Act would require that projects be valued at a minimum of $50 million and be considered of national or regional significance to qualify for funding.

The authority would finance no more than 49 percent of a project's total cost, and loans and loan guarantees would be subject to "modest additional fees," which would allow the authority to more quickly become self-sustaining, said Warner.

The authority would operate independently of existing federal agencies and be led by a board of directors with seven voting members and a chief executive officer, all of whom would be required to demonstrate proven expertise in financial management and be confirmed by a Senate vote, he said.

"The BRIDGE Act is not a 'silver bullet' to magically close America's infrastructure gap, but this bipartisan proposal creates smart new tools to help our states and localities unlock billions of dollars in additional private investments at a time of very favorable interest rates," said Warner. "The BRIDGE Act … also [will] help to expand U.S. commerce and trade, keeping American businesses competitive and creating even more jobs here at home."

The bill has been endorsed by various stakeholders and groups, including the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), American Trucking Associations, American Society of Civil Engineers and Bipartisan Policy Center.

Initiatives like the BRIDGE Act are vital to strengthening America's economy and international competitiveness, said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle in a prepared statement.

"This legislation is a positive step toward increasing investment in our nation's critical infrastructure, which includes ports and the road, rail and water connections with them," he said. "AAPA is very concerned that the inadequate and deteriorating condition of America's transportation system — particularly the portion responsible for freight movement — threatens our country's ability to remain globally competitive."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/19/2013