LOCUS Developers gather in Washington DC to push for transportation bill improvements

The Navy Yard Metro station in Washington, DC is a recent example of development near transit stations. Photo by Flickr user M.V. Jantzen.

The hotly debated federal transportation bill could better support development near transit stations – if the House and Senate adopt a key amendment in their negotiations.

Members of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS, a coalition of real estate developers and investors, are gathering in Washington this week to call on Congress to pass a transportation bill that makes it easier to build transit-oriented and walkable development projects across the country. LOCUS developers will deliver that message as part of the 2012 LOCUS Leadership Summit, a three-day event that includes educational forums, walking tours of smart growth in the DC region, the inaugural LOCUS leadership awards and presentations by Obama Administration officials.

Specifically, LOCUS supports changes proposed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Warner (D-VA), which would create a credit enhancement for transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. This amendment is one of many being considered as both houses of Congress work to find common ground on a final version of the bill.

Bennet and Warner’s proposal would reduce obstacles for TOD in the Federal Highway Administration’s successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. The proposal would lower the cost threshold for TOD projects within TIFIA from the current $50 million to $15 million, and would also expand project eligibility criteria to include things like transportation infrastructure. These provisions would help developers cover the enormous upfront infrastructure costs involved in many TOD projects, while creating new public infrastructure funded with the help of private dollars.

Developers across the country, including many members of LOCUS, are eager to invest in public infrastructure around transit stations – but they need some help. Low cost federal loans like similar to TIFIA would provide financing for public infrastructure near transit and rail hubs as well as a much-needed gap-financing tool for developers interested in building TOD.

LOCUS members will meet with members of Congress this week to advocate for better opportunities for walkable neighborhoods and you can too. Speak out for the Bennet-Warner amendment: click here to send a letter to your Senator.