USDOT launches Build America Bureau

The new centre will continue the work of its predecessor BATIC, which provided guidance to project sponsors and investors on available financing for transportation projects.

The US Department of Transportation has established a new “one-stop shop” to help both public project sponsors and private investors navigate and take advantage of the various financing options available to them through the government agency.

The Build America Bureau will bring a handful of credit programmes under one roof, including the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) programme and Private Activity Bonds (PABs). It will also administer the new $800 million Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant programme.

“The Build America Bureau – which we call ‘the Bureau’ – will drive transportation infrastructure development projects in the United States by streamlining credit opportunities and grants more quickly and transparently, while providing technical assistance and encouraging innovative best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring,” US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The new centre is made possible by the latest multi-year surface transportation legislation, the FAST Act, enacted last December.

“The work we’ve done through [BATIC] has led Congress to pass a provision that allows us to put that on steroids,” Foxx told Infrastructure Investor in an interview the day the FAST Act was sent to President Barack Obama for signing. “The provision for an innovative financing bureau gives us the Congressionally-designated authority to consolidate our credit programmes, which we were not able to do before.”

According to the statement, the Bureau’s credit team will be able to underwrite loans from multiple sources, for example a TIFIA and RRIF loan, into a single credit package. In addition to consolidating USDOT’s credit programmes, the Bureau will also have an outreach and project development division and a division dedicated to the FASTLANE grant programme.

“Although DOT has been successful in delivering major transportation infrastructure in innovative ways with a variety of public and private partners, the existing processes can be often overly complex, time-consuming to access, and frustrating to navigate,” Foxx commented. “While transportation projects are increasingly multi-modal, the existing federal credit and funding programmes remained siloed by mode.”