Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act gets boost from transportation bill
WIFIA projects in municipalities can now be funded by tax-exempt municipal bonds.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Last night, the U.S. Senate joined the House to pass a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill, representing the first time Congress has passed a long-term national transportation funding bill in more than a decade. Under the act Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) projects in municipalities can now be funded by tax-exempt municipal bonds. The "Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act" (H.R. 22) restores certainty to a national surface transportation program that has been strung along by more than 35 stopgap extensions, and includes provisions that provide local decision-makers with greater access to federal transportation dollars.
"Cities desperately need long-term certainty in their transportation planning and funding. We can't fix the bridges or roads that millions of Americans use every day without it, and we've been telling Congress that for more than 10 years. After a decade of piecemeal fixes, Congress has finally heard the National League of Cities' call to pass a transportation bill," said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities. "Senators Inhofe and Boxer and Congressmen Shuster and DeFazio have done an outstanding job restoring certainty to our nation's transportation programs. Together, we can build a world-class transportation infrastructure that will connect, empower and build a foundation for future growth in cities across the nation."
The FAST Act includes a number of programs relevant to city transportation programs, including:
- The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (formerly the Surface Transportation Program) will increase funding that is allocated to local decision makers from 50 percent to 55 percent over the life of the bill and gives local leaders greater flexibility over how those dollars are spent. This will help undo some of the negative changes made under the prior two-year transportation bill, MAP-21, which reduced local control over the STP program.
- The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which provides funding for walking and bicycling infrastructure directly to local leaders, is now a part of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. Its funding has been increased from $835 million to $850 million.
- Additional money for bridges and transit—a critical lifeline for cities—has been increased, with locally-owned bridges now eligible for more than $22 billion in federal funding under the National Highway Performance Program. The increased funds are directed towards bus, bus facilities and other vital transit programs.
- New access to federal financing is available from the popular Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. Transit Oriented Development projects are now eligible to apply for TIFIA funds and the minimum project size has been lowered from $25-$50 million to $10 million for projects with significant local government involvement, making it much easier for projects outside of major metropolitan areas to apply for low-cost federal financing.
- Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) projects in municipalities can now be funded by tax-exempt municipal bonds.