Feds issues $194 million TIFIA loan to Florida

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) last week approved a loan of approximately $194 million under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to fund the construction of five segments of the Wekiva Parkway in Orlando, Florida.

"Increasing congestion is one of the challenges our nation will continue to face in the upcoming decades," USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "The Wekiva Parkway is the sort of highway improvement necessary to support the economy of Central Florida as travel demands continue to climb."

The Wekiva Parkway is a 25-mile toll road with limited access ramps, which will extend State Road 429 from Apopka to the Interstate 4 interchange with State Road 417, near Sanford, Florida. When completed, the parkway will complete the long-envisioned beltway circling the northwest quadrant of metropolitan Orlando. It is expected to relieve the heavily congested areas of U.S. Highway 441 and State Road 46, which connect Seminole, Lake and Orange counties.

The Florida State Department of Transportation is responsible for nine sections of the parkway project, including 17 miles of tolled expressway and non-tolled improvements in Lake and Seminole counties.

The TIFIA credit program was created to provide funding to fill market gaps and leverage investments from other areas. For each dollar of federal funding, $10 in TIFIA credit assistance and support up to $30 in transportation infrastructure investment can be provided.

The USDOT has already financed $2.2 billion during the current fiscal year to support transportation infrastructure projects across America.

"The new road will provide an alternative to slow-moving traffic on the already congested nearby highways," Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. "The department's loan will help leverage capital and push forward a project that will boost area businesses and improve connectivity."

Foxx noted that the congestion in the Orlando area fits the criteria of the concerning trends outlined in a recent report released by USDOT. The "Beyond Traffic" report studied the growing problems surrounding the country’s infrastructure and decisions America's leaders face regarding these problems over the next 25 to 30 years. It discussed issues such as the rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and the effects of more extreme weather. The report predicted increasing frequency of gridlock nationwide unless changes are planned and implemented now.

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