FRA workshop aims to 'take the mystery' out of the RRIF loan process, encourage participation (12/4/2002)


Regional and short-line executives' biggest complaints about the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Finance (RRIF) program is that its application process is too complicated and it takes too long for Federal Railroad Administration to approve loans.

FRA wants to change that perception. The agency has scheduled a workshop Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C., "to take the mystery out of the application process and encourage greater participation," said Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter in a prepared statement.

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorized RRIF, through which FRA provides freight roads $3.5 billion in direct loans or loan guarantees (including $1 billion for regionals and short lines) to acquire, improve or rehabilitate existing or new facilities, including track, bridges, yards, buildings and shops.

Railroads also can use RRIF funds to refinance outstanding debt incurred from infrastructure projects. In addition to freight roads, eligible borrowers include state and local governments, government-sponsored authorities and corporations.

"This is a terrific program, one that offers freight railroads of all shapes and sizes, along with municipalities throughout the country, added financial flexibility in improving rail infrastructure," said Rutter. "While a few applications are currently under review, the industry has yet to take full advantage of the program."

So far, FRA in July approved a $2.1 million RRIF direct loan for 21-mile Mt. Hood Railroad to rehabilitate track, acquire equipment, and refinance debt tied to past capital expenditures and equipment purchases; in April approved a $12 million loan for 139-mile Arkansas & Missouri Railroad Co. to upgrade track and pare down debt; and in June 2001 approved a $100 million loan for I&M Rail Link to recapitalize, and improve some infrastructure.

FRA plans to hold the workshop, entitled "How To Prepare an Application for Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing," at U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News