TIFIA’s first transit-oriented development loan approval

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is an important priority of LOCUS to advance sustainable, equitable, walkable development in America’s metropolitan areas. To meet that goal, LOCUS has long advocated for TIFIA, an important tool to advance TOD, helping to secure a win through the passage of the FAST Act in 2015. Recently, the first loan was approved through the TIFIA Transit Oriented Development provisions in Washington state—this is an important milestone, and LOCUS developers will continue to build on the momentum to advance sustainable development and walkable communities across the country through TOD.

Train tracks and a train run through the center of housing development on both sides.
Photo by Eric Wheel on Flickr.

LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of triple-bottom-line real estate developers and investors, has worked over the years to advocate for TOD provisions within two federal programs, TIFIA and RRIF:

TIFIA provides credit assistance for large-scale, surface transportation projects like highways, transit, railroads, and ports. TIFIA loans (or loan guarantees or credits) can help state and local governments, transit agencies, railroad companies, special authorities, special districts, and private entities finance projects that might not otherwise be financially possible.

RRIFF (Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing) provides direct loans to help or improve railroads. These improvements include rehabilitating railroad facilities and equipment, refinancing, financing TOD, and more. 

The Legwork

In 2015, LOCUS led advocacy efforts for increased opportunities for TOD through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which authorized $305 billion of transportation spending. The TIFIA program offers below-market rate financing on qualifying infrastructure projects. The FAST Act expanded the power of TIFIA and RIFF programs to include loans to support TOD projects. These credits are offered in three ways: Secured (Direct) Loan, Loan Guarantee, and Standby Line of credit. The TOD provisions to TIFIA and RIFF expand opportunities for financing private-sector TOD and could lead to a much-needed boost in housing production near transit. LOCUS has been at the forefront of advocating and applauding these inclusions in TIFIA’s draft legislation stages.

TIFIA in action

The coalition’s hard work is finally bearing fruit: the first TOD loan through the TIFIA program closed in Washington State last month. The Mt. Vernon Library Commons project has received a $26.8 loan through TIFIA in Washington state. The project includes the development of:

  • Multi-use building with a public library
  • Community center
  • Commercial Kitchen
  • Public restrooms
  • STEM Center and more

LOCUS is thrilled to see TIFIA support a project that will build a vital, accessible civic hub near transit. However, the TOD provisions present much greater potential: to create much-needed housing and other mixed uses in partnership with the private sector. LOCUS will continue to work on making these financing options less difficult for the private sector to use.

Though this milestone deserves to be celebrated, LOCUS will continue to advocate for changes to the program to increase access for the public and private sectors to ultimately deliver more TOD.

More information about this project can be found at the U.S. Department of Transportation. LOCUS is excited to see projects financed through this loan program that will help expand transit-efficient communities nationwide.

Land Use and Development LOCUS