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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Rail project funding: TIGER VII pre-apps top $14 billion; Sen. Carper co-sponsors RRIF reform bill

The U.S. Department of Transportation received more than 950 pre-applications — requesting a near total of $14.5 billion — for the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program this year. The amount requested is 29 times the funds available, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote in his Fast Lane blog yesterday.

Friday is the deadline for final applications for the TIGER VII program, which will make  $500 million in federal grants available to "transformative and innovative" transportation projects. Pre-applications were submitted from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories and more than 80 tribal governments, Foxx wrote.

Awarded on a competitive basis, the grants help pay for projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, region or metropolitan area by generating economic development and improving access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation.

Foxx lamented that the program is limited to $500 million this year.

"Every year, TIGER is able to fund innovative projects that leverage investment, provide Americans with additional ways to get to work, and help companies get their goods to market," Foxx said. "But every year, DOT has to turn away many more high-quality projects because we lack the funds."

President Obama's proposal for long-term surface transportation legislation would increase TIGER funding to $7.5 billion over six years and expand the number of projects awarded grants, Foxx added.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced he is co-sponsoring the Railroad Infrastructure Financing Improvement Act (RIFIA), a bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) that would offer a new source of capital investment for passenger-rail projects.

The legislation would reform the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program to operate more like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. Established in 1976, RRIF has been underutilized because of various limitations on its lending ability, Carper said in a press release.

"The RIFIA proposal would offer rail operators like Amtrak new and improved access to low-cost capital for investment in passenger-rail projects in Delaware and across the country," he said. "These are badly needed projects that will help to achieve a state-of-good repair, improve safety and on-time performance, enhance service quality and further grow and expand Americans' access to rail travel options."

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More News from 6/3/2015