USDOT program assists states cities
Mary Scott Nabers / January 5, 2017
Last summer, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the creation of the Build America Bureau. It was heralded as a one-stop shop to provide assistance to government entities in need of funding for transportation infrastructure projects.
The new bureau was designed to provide support, information, expertise and advice related to DOT credit programs and funding for infrastructure projects. Specialists in the bureau offer guidance about how to combine federal funding programs, how to access specific ones and how to acquire funding for projects in a much quicker way. The bureau is also prepared to guide and advise public officials about various other types of alternative funding programs such as public-private partnerships (P3s).
DOT recently announced another groundbreaking financial tool – a product of the Build America Bureau – and provided an example. The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) and the Build America Bureau signed a pioneering, first-of-its-kind Master Credit Agreement (MCA). The agreement lays a foundation for working together to initiate four transit projects in the Seattle area. The projects, now that they are consolidated, will be eligible to receive close to $2 billion in financing. As a result of the MCA, the Build America Bureau will be able to close one deal that covers multiple projects.
This MCA streamlines and speeds up the funding process. The result will be beneficial to all parties. It will result in saving time, resources and money. That will capture the attention and the interest of more private-sector contractors interested in competing for some of the work. Often, private-sector partners lose interest and will simply walk away from an opportunity because of the length of time it takes to work through the government’s bureaucracy. The Build America Bureau will definitely shorten project timelines.
The first of the four loans sought by Sound Transit – for more than $615 million for an extension on the Northgate Link – has already closed. That should result in a quick closing for the other three proposed projects.
Sound Transit is the first signee to take advantage of this program and will benefit from low interest rates and long-term loan repayment schedules. Sound Transit officials predict they could save $200 million to $300 million in capital spending through participation in the MCA.
DOT officials hope to make Seattle the poster city to illustrate how the bureau can work successfully with public entities. Seattle will be able to take advantage of the experience and expertise of DOT transportation specialists as well as the bureau’s funding experts. DOT officials hope that the Seattle transit program’s success in the program will encourage other entities to apply.
Public officials with infrastructure needs should take a long hard look at this program. The offerings are abundant and the bureau’s doors are open.