U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) today introduced the Railroad Rehabilitation and Financing Innovation Act, legislation to improve the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program by providing dedicated funding for RRIF financing costs, streamlining the application process, and extending loan terms for certain assets.
“RRIF was created to provide stable financing to small railroads for infrastructure investment, however, shortlines are often unable to afford the time and expense associated with the current RRIF application process, discouraging them from using the program,” said Thune. “This legislation makes necessary updates to RRIF, so that shortlines are better able to use the program as originally intended.”
“As communities consider steps to promote economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, this bipartisan legislation looks ahead to strengthen funding opportunities for passenger rail,” said Hassan. “Passenger rail can provide a significant economic boost to Granite State communities, and as Congress considers future transportation and infrastructure packages, it should prioritize passenger rail efforts.”
The Railroad Rehabilitation and Financing Innovation Act would:
Streamline the application process: Building on the work done by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in creating the RRIF Express pilot program, the bill establishes an expedited credit review process for loans meeting certain financial and operational criteria. The bill also reduces applicant uncertainty by requiring DOT to provide applicants with regular updates on the status of their application.
Improve program flexibility: The bill makes several changes to improve program flexibility, including longer loan terms for certain rail infrastructure projects and increased flexibility for DOT to evaluate collateral and creditworthiness.
Provide dedicated funding for RRIF financing costs: Similar to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program, the legislation authorizes funding to cover financing costs associated with providing RRIF loans. Half of the funding is dedicated solely to shortline railroads, while the remainder is reserved for passenger rail projects.