February 25, 2021 - TRA Newswire -

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg today announced that USDOT’s Build America Bureau (the Bureau) has provided a $908 million loan under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) for the Silver Line Regional Rail Project.

This is the first RRIF loan to close under the Biden Administration.

This loan is a refinancing of the RRIF loan provided to DART for the same project by the Bureau in December 2018. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USDOT has received interest from existing borrowers to refinance their loans to help mitigate pandemic-related revenue loss and to take advantage of low interest rates.

This transaction is estimated to save DART approximately $190 million in interest costs at a time when transit agencies nationwide are facing pandemic-related budget constraints.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to investing in clean transportation while improving access to good-paying jobs, and this loan is the latest example of that,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “There’s no question that transit access to the rapidly growing Dallas suburbs needs to be expanded, and ensuring the new stations are accessible by walking, biking and wheelchairs will provide more options for residents and make it easier for people to choose more affordable and sustainable ways to get around. It is prudent to take advantage of historically low interest rates to help DART refinance this loan at a time when they, like many transit agencies around the country, continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19.”

The loan proceeds will finance part of the construction costs of the project, which is a 26-mile double-track commuter rail alignment extending from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport eastward to Shiloh Road in Plano, Texas.

The commuter line will connect with three existing DART transit lines, contain 10 stations, and traverse through three counties and seven cities. At DFW Airport the Silver Line will connect cross-platform with Trinity Metro's TEXRail line for service into Fort Worth.

“The Department’s assistance helps DART deliver this ambitious project which will extend service across the DART service area from the eastern edge across the northern suburbs and includes several infrastructure additions such as hike and bike trails, separated grade improvements, and full double-tracking across the entire segment,” said David Leininger, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of DART. “The ten platforms will also stimulate transit-oriented development across a broad swath of the region. Reducing interest costs on the loan will also play a crucial part in restoring DART’s long-term capital development capacity, which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Since the current loan closed in December 2018, DART has made significant progress on project design and construction. All key project contracts have been awarded, project design has significantly advanced, and construction is underway and on budget.

The savings from the new loan will address a funding gap for other projects in the future. DART expects to open the Silver Line Rail Regional Project to the public by March 2023.

The Bureau, which administers the RRIF credit program, was established under the Obama administration as a “one-stop-shop” to streamline credit opportunities, while also providing technical assistance and encouraging innovative best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring.

The Bureau has the resources and full commitment to provide additional flexibility and financial assistance to transportation projects in regions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to minimize the negative effects and help them for quicker recovery from this crisis. To date, the RRIF credit program has closed $7.1 billion in financings to support railroad projects across the country.