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US$421m loan for SR 91 expansion project

The new US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, has announced a US$421m loan for the SR 91 Corridor Improvement Project in Southern California, which is intended to increase capacity of the corridor and ease congestion on the Riverside County side of the highway. The loan has been made possible through innovative federal financing assistance, which partners with private sector investments to deliver large transportation infrastructure projects. The SR 91 project will extend the two existing tolled Express Lanes and construct one general purpose lane in each direction from the Orange County line to I-15 in Riverside County, a distance of approximately 12.8km (8 miles). It also includes improvements to bridges and intersections and will add merge lanes for improved access. Currently, more than 280,000 vehicles per day use the SR 91 Express Lanes, which is the only freeway connecting Riverside and Orange counties that have a combined population of 5.3 million people. Population growth in western Riverside County and increased employment opportunities in Orange County have led to worse congestion on SR-91.

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) is providing the US$421 million loan to the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) under its TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act) loan program. RCTC is advancing the project under an agreement with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to toll the new lanes for 50 years. The TIFIA credit program is designed to fill market gaps and use substantial non-federal investments. Each dollar of federal funding can provide up to US$10 in TIFIA credit assistance and support up to US$30 in transportation infrastructure investment. Since its launch, the TIFIA program has helped 33 projects turn US$11.6bn in USDOT assistance into US$44bn in infrastructure investment across the country.

The recently enacted transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), transforms TIFIA into one of the largest transportation infrastructure loan programs in history, making available up to US$17bn in credit assistance for critical infrastructure projects. Announcing the funding, Foxx said, “President Obama called on us to ‘Fix it First’ by investing in the roads and bridges that need work now. This project is a job creator that will improve mobility in the region and better connect Orange and Riverside counties.” Federal Highway Administrator, Victor Mendez, commented, “This project will relieve congestion and make travel easier for commuters and all area residents. It will improve quality of life and strengthen the local economy.”

July 10, 2013

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