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September 20, 2021 5:30 PM, EDT

USDOT Announces Aid for California Highway Project, INFRA Support

Overview of Interstate 405 The Orange County Transportation Authority received a direct loan for up to $628.9 million for the Interstate 405 improvement project, (Orange County Transportation Authority via Twitter)

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A key corridor in Orange County, Calif., is the recent recipient of additional federal funding assistance to expand highway access in the region, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced recently.

The Orange County Transportation Authority received a direct loan for up to $628.9 million for the Interstate 405 improvement project, according to an announcement this month by the department’s Build America Bureau.

This Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan for the Orange County project is an update of a loan issued in 2017. It is meant to assist with financing construction costs for a general-purpose lane and a toll lane in each direction. The Orange County project consists of a 16-mile stretch on I-405 between state Route 73 and I-605.

Project managers anticipate opening the new sections to the public by the fall of 2023. In northwest Orange County, project managers seek to improve the flow of freight, as well as commuters along a congested freeway in the region. The traffic amelioration is expected to bring relief to truckers and other motorists who rely on the Southern California corridor. Also, the project is expected to produce an estimated 26,000 jobs, per USDOT.

Separately, nearly four dozen infrastructure projects have qualified for federal credit assistance in an effort to facilitate their completion, USDOT announced Sept. 20.

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Forty-four projects under consideration for a grants program known as INFRA will be able to apply for credit assistance via the department’s signature loan program. This modified assistance, referred to as INFRA Extra, would be for up to 49% of the project’s cost.

These INFRA Extra projects often have large financing requirements and garner support because of their economic and quality-of-life benefits in communities and surrounding areas. The INFRA Extra projects include the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the Charleston Boulevard Underpass Project in Las Vegas, the state Route 7 grade-crossing by the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the North St. Louis Freight Corridor by the Missouri Department of Transportation. There also is the Arthur Kill Lift Bridge Capital Renovation Project in New York City, the Boylan Wye Grade-Separated Crossing at West Street in Raleigh, N.C., and the Palm Avenue and I-805 Interchange Project in San Diego.

The Biden administration issued the announcement to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the department’s Build America Bureau, which is tasked with managing the funding distribution. The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants assist with projects that demonstrate economic significance. The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) is designed to offer credit assistance for big-ticket projects.

“Every year, the department receives far more qualified applications for the INFRA program than we can fund,” Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg said Sept. 20. “We’re excited to give some of the most promising INFRA finalists a chance to receive a TIFIA loan instead, so we can help advance transformative infrastructure projects all across the country.”

According to the department, federal officials have received 157 eligible INFRA applications stemming from 42 states, and the territory of Guam. In all, they requested nearly $7 billion in grants. The program has $1 billion in availability. Congress is considering legislation designed to expand the program.

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