Transportation Infrastructure:

Alternative Financing Mechanisms for Surface Transportation

GAO-02-1126T: Published: Sep 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2002.

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As Congress considers reauthorizing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 2003, it does so in the face of a continuing need for the nation to invest in its surface transportation infrastructure at a time when both the federal and state governments are experiencing severe financial constraints. As transportation needs have grown, Congress provided states--in the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 and TEA-21--additional means to make highway investments through alternative financing mechanisms. A number of states are using existing alternative financing tools such as State Infrastructure Banks, Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles bonds, and loans under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. These tools can provide states with additional options to accelerate projects and leverage federal assistance--they can also provide greater flexibility and more funding techniques. Federal funding of surface transportation investments includes federal-aid highway program grant funding appropriated by Congress out of the Highway Trust Fund, loans and loan guarantees, and bonds that are issued by states that are exempt from federal taxation. Expanding the use of alternative financing mechanisms has the potential to stimulate additional investment and private participation. However, expanding investment in the nation's highways and transit systems raises basic questions of who pays, how much, and when.

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