In order to stretch limited funds, Congress authorized some innovative uses of federal transportation funds. Funds were authorized to create state "banks" to complement traditional transportation grant programs and provide states with flexibility to offer many types of financial assistance. The State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) Program, similar to a private bank, offers a range of loans and credit options to help finance eligible surface transportation projects. SIBs offer states the ability to undertake transportation projects that would otherwise go unfunded or experience substantial delays.
SIB utilization in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) applied for federal seed money to create a revolving loan program. Communities can borrow the money to provide needed transportation infrastructure improvements to help preserve, promote and encourage economic development and/or promote transportation efficiency, safety and mobility. The Wisconsin SIB program is a revolving loan program providing capital for transportation projects from loan repayments and interest earned from funds remaining in the bank. SIBs can be used in conjunction with other programs to better facilitate the timing of economic development projects. SIB projects include the following:
- improve an interchange for a new industrial park or commercial development
- enhance a road leading up to a contaminated (brownfields) property
- provide for better access to facilitate increased auto or truck traffic near commercial or industrial sites
- repair or reconstruct a bridge linking downtown businesses with a major state highway(s)
- provide signal lights, turn lanes and pedestrian walkways at a busy highway intersection
- construct or widen a road linking an intermodal facility (i.e. airport, harbor, railroad)
- widen a highway to improve safety and truck movements for a warehousing/distribution center
- construct parking facilities, bicycle lanes and pedestrian walk-ways to better facilitate customer traffic on or near retail centers and tourist attractions.
WisDOT was authorized $1.5 million to start an infrastructure bank. WisDOT provided a 20% match in order to receive the federal funds and started the program with a total of $1,875,000. WisDOT charges a 2% interest rate on the loan principal and projects can be amortized up to 25 years.
Eligibility includes a county, city, village, town or combination thereof, government entities (e.g., Amtrak), a private non-profit organization (sponsored by an eligible community) and Transit Commissions. Funds are available on a "first come, first served" basis. To date, there have been eight SIB loans to local communities and a county government. Funds were used to provide enhancements to a downtown business district and the construction of multiple functional pedestrian, bicycle and snowmobile bridge for a tourist-oriented community in northern Wisconsin (pictured top right). A county applied for a loan to improve the safety and traffic circulation for its industrial park and retail center. Another loan provided new street access for a major manufacturer in the community.
Dean M. Prestegaard
Economic Development Chief
Division of Transportation Investment Management