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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Rockefeller, Lautenberg draft bill to drive private transportation investments


Last week, Sens. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act of 2011 (S. 936), which would provide $5 billion in federal funding for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 to help drive private investment in transportation infrastructure.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) would oversee the fund and be charged with the primary objective of investing in transportation projects that provide “measurable improvements” to the nation’s economic competitiveness, Rockefeller and Lautenberg said in a joint statement. The bill would authorize the National Infrastructure Investment Grant program within the USDOT to provide funds for projects aimed at building or improving transportation infrastructure.

S. 936 — which was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation — would create various funding tools, such as loans and loan guarantees, to provide financial assistance for eligible projects and encourage private, regional, state and local entities to invest in the projects.

The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission determined that the annual investment needed to maintain and improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure ranges between $225 billion and $340 billion, Rockefeller and Lautenberg said. Leveraging federal funds to attract private capital “is an effective way for the federal government to generate billions in additional investment into major transportation projects beyond what would otherwise be possible using public funds alone,” they said.

 “America’s transportation infrastructure is a linchpin for economic success and global leadership. But in recent years, our infrastructure has deteriorated and is at a breaking point,” said Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate committee. “Our roads are crumbling, our aviation system is overloaded, our passenger-rail network is too slow and our maritime infrastructure is not up to the demands of global trade. Our bill offers an investment mechanism to leverage the vast amount of private capital waiting to be put to use and set a new course in order to meet America’s 21st century infrastructure needs.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/18/2011