Sens. Thune, Hassan reintroduce railroad infrastructure improvement bill

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U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) reintroduced legislation to improve the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program on Thursday.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Financing Innovation Act would provide dedicated funding for the RRIF financing costs, streamline the application process and extend loan terms for certain assets.

“States like South Dakota rely on shortline railroads to transport agricultural products and other goods to market, and the RRIF program was originally designed to provide stable financing to small railroads for infrastructure investment,” Thune said. “Unfortunately, shortlines are often unable to afford the time and expense associated with the current RRIF application process, discouraging them from using the program. This legislation makes necessary updates to RRIF, so shortlines are better able to use the program as originally intended.”

The legislation would establish an expedited credit review process for loans that meet certain financial and operational criteria while requiring the Department of Transportation to provide applicants with regular application status updates. Additionally, the legislation would increase the DOT’s flexibility in evaluating applicant’s collateral and creditworthiness and authorizes funding to cover the financing costs associated with RRIF loans.

“Infrastructure investments will be a critical part of our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hassan. “Passenger rail has significant potential in New Hampshire, expanding options for commuters and helping our towns to thrive, and short line and smaller rail lines play a key role in our state’s economy. This bipartisan bill will improve financing options for both, and I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to invest in infrastructure, create jobs, and grow our economy.”