Senate bill would create national infrastructure bank

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/28/2013

A bill filed by two prominent U.S. senators would create a national infrastructure bank to attract private investment. And although funding is needed for infrastructure, truckers and other highway users are concerned about the likelihood of tolls being used as a revenue source to keep the bank stocked.

Sens. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller, D-WV, and Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, filed S387, the American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act of 2013, on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

They say the bill addresses the growing shortfall in transportation funding.

S387 calls for $5 billion in seed money to start the bank in an effort to attract private investment not just in highways and bridges but in railways, runways, ports and pipelines as well.

According to a statement issued by the senators, the bank would use loans and loan guarantees to fund eligible projects at the private, state, regional and local level.

The bill would also authorize a $600 million multimodal grant program in 2014 and 2015.

A number of states already have infrastructure banks, but it remains a concept at the federal level despite various attempts at establishing a national bank.

Former Sens. John Kerry, D-MA, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, attempted an infrastructure bank bill in the 112th Congress.

The Rockefeller/Lautenberg bill is different from past attempts because the fund would be part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and not the general Treasury.

Opinions about a national infrastructure bank vary.

Truckers have expressed concerns about the likelihood of the borrowers using tolls to pay off the loans. And if tolls do emerge as a revenue source, truckers’ concerns would deepen as toll money is siphoned away to fund railways, pipelines or other infrastructure projects. OOIDA has raised those concerns with past proposals.

S387 resides in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Sen. Rockefeller chairs the full committee, while Sen. Lautenberg chairs the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

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