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Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)

Fact Sheets on Highway Provisions


Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Authorization $122 M $122 M $122 M $122 M $122 M

Program Purpose

The TIFIA program provides Federal credit assistance to nationally or regionally significant surface transportation projects, including highway, transit and rail. The program is designed to fill market gaps and leverage substantial private co-investment by providing projects with supplemental or subordinate debt.

Statutory References

SAFETEA LU Section(s): 1601

Other: 23 USC 601-609

Program Products

The TIFIA credit program consists of three types of financial assistance, designed to address requirements throughout a project's life cycle.

  • Secured loans are direct Federal loans to project sponsors offering flexible repayment terms and providing combined construction and permanent financing of capital costs.
  • Loan guarantees provide full-faith-and-credit guarantees by the Federal Government to institutional investors, such as pension funds, that make loans for projects.
  • Lines of credit represent contingent sources of funding in the form of Federal loans that may be drawn upon to supplement project revenues, if needed, during the first 10 years of project operations.

Senior project obligations must receive an investment grade rating. The total amount of TIFIA credit assistance may not exceed 33 percent of eligible project costs (or, if the TIFIA credit does not receive an investment grade rating, the amount of senior project obligations). The TIFIA credit instrument must be supported in whole or in part from user charges or other dedicated non-Federal funding sources that also secure the project obligations. Credit assistance must be repaid within 35 years after the project's substantial completion.


Funded by contract authority, to remain available until expended, the funds are subject to the overall Federal-aid obligation limitation. Funds cover the subsidy cost (similar to a commercial bank's loan reserve requirement) of TIFIA credit assistance. The annual amount of available credit assistance is a function of available contract authority.

Eligible Use of Funds

Any type of project eligible for Federal assistance through surface transportation programs under Title 23 or chapter 53 of Title 49, USC (highway projects and transit capital projects) is eligible for the TIFIA credit program. Eligibility is specifically extended to international bridges and tunnels as well as inter-city passenger bus and rail facilities and vehicles (including Amtrak and magnetic levitation systems).

Eligibility for freight facilities is clarified and expanded to include: public freight rail facilities or private facilities providing public benefit for highway users; intermodal freight transfer facilities; access to such freight facilities and service improvements to such facilities including capital investment for intelligent transportation systems (ITS). Freight projects may involve the combining of private and public sector funds in private sector facility improvement. When located in a port terminal, only surface transportation infrastructure modifications necessary to facilitate direct intermodal interchange, transfer, and access into and out of the port are eligible.

Each project must meet certain objectively measurable thresholds to qualify, several of which were lowered by SAFETEA-LU. A project must cost at least $50M or 1/3 of the State's annual apportionment of Federal-aid highway funds whichever is less. For intelligent transportation system projects, the minimum cost is $15M. Freight projects with a common objective of improving the flow of goods may be combined to meet project thresholds. A project must be consistent with the State's long-range transportation plan and be included in the transportation improvement program.

Qualified projects meeting the initial threshold eligibility criteria will be evaluated by the Secretary and selected based on the extent to which they generate economic benefits, leverage private capital, promote innovative technologies, and meet other program objectives.

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