By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety explored infrastructure-related financing challenges facing rural communities during a Jan. 28 hearing, as committee members ready its title of a broader surface transportation reauthorization bill.

Increasing rural participation is a U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) priority, and officials at the hearing testified about the shares of discretionary grant programs. Within the Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants, rural participation ranges from 50-64 percent. However, other tools administered by the Build America Bureau, such as the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) programs have much lower rural participation. For example, TIFIA’s Rural Projects Initiative has 13 projects in seven states utilizing financing tools–just 10 percent of the existing pipeline.

U.S. DOT Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Joel Szabat outlined a forthcoming toolkit, Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative and technical assistance programs to prompt rural engagement. Dr. Morteza Farajian, executive director of the Build America Bureau, provided background on the direct outreach to states, as well as the RRIF Express Pilot Program to help address urban/rural disparities. Dr. Farajian also serves on ARTBA’s Board of Directors for the P3 Division.

Watch a video recording of the hearing.

These topics will be among those addressed at ARTBA’s 32nd Annual P3s in Transportation Conference, July 15-17, in the Nation’s Capital.  More information will be available at www.artbap3.org.