WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday, Dec. 12, that its Build America Bureau has provided two low-interest loans totaling $97.6 million to the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CBT), the governing body of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), for improvements to Interstate 81.
The bureau helps communities of all sizes across the country reduce the costs of infrastructure projects by providing Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, known as TIFIA loans, and other types of financing. The bureau’s Rural Projects Initiative (RPI), offers loans at half the treasury rate and for nearly half the project costs instead of the customary 33 percent.
The two TIFIA loans, one from RPI for up to $15 million (49 percent of the $30.5 million cost) and one traditional TIFIA loan for up to $82.6 million (33 percent of the $250.2 million cost), enable VDOT to finance and expedite part of its $2.7 billion I-81 Capital Improvement Program. The rural project extends the acceleration/deceleration and merge/diverge areas making entering and exiting the highway safer and more functional at various access points along I-81. It will also make a number of improvements along I-81 in Roanoke County, including adding lanes and replacing bridges.
“The department applauds Virginia’s efforts to improve safety and reduce delays along the I-81 corridor,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. “We know rural areas not only have a disproportionately high rate of car crashes but they also often lack the resources to make improvements, which is why the Rural Project Initiative is so important to our broader efforts to reverse the crisis of roadway deaths happening all over the country.”
Partly in response to the crisis on Virginia’s roads, USDOT launched the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) at the start of 2022 and recently released a dashboard showing implementation progress. The NRSS is bolstered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s historic levels of funding to address safety, especially in rural areas, where a disproportionate number of traffic injuries and fatalities occur. The Virginia project is an example of implementing the NRSS objective on advancing infrastructure design and interventions that will significantly enhance roadway safety.
The bureau was established as a “one-stop-shop” during the Obama Administration to help states and other project sponsors carry out infrastructure projects. The bureau offers low-interest, long-term credit programs, technical assistance, and best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and operation.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has closed $38.7 billion in TIFIA financings, supporting more than $132.9 billion in infrastructure investment across the country.