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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has created a new pilot program to expedite long-term, low-cost loans for short-line and regional railroads, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced yesterday.The Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Financing Express (RRIF Express) is aimed at reducing the time and costs associated with securing loans to modernize aging freight-rail infrastructure.In addition to expedited handling of loan requests, the program provides up to $26 million in additional financial support."This new financing program will strengthen the short-line and regional railroad system, promote economic growth in rural communities and boost America’s economic competitiveness," said Chao in a press release.USDOT's Build America Bureau will administer the program to support economic activity and improve the safety, capacity and reliability of the short-line and regional freight railroad infrastructure. For qualified applicants, the new program will significantly cut credit risk premium costs and adviser fees, costs that borrowers would otherwise have to pay in the traditional RRIF program.Letters of interest will be accepted Jan. 12 through April 11, 2020.American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Chuck Baker welcomed the department's action in creating the new program."Access to long-term low-cost capital is a challenge in this industry, especially for railroads serving small town America. RRIF can be an effective solution, but only if it can be reliably and quickly accessed; this express program shows great promise for meeting that need," Baker said.Short lines and regionals operate more than 47,000 route miles in the United States.The program's notice of funding opportunity can be found via this link.