President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have been pushing high-speed rail since January, but Congress needs to really pull for it.
Brightline CEO Mike Reininger spoke before the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on May 6 and encouraged more support from lawmakers for high-speed rail. He said Congress could increase investment in rail through measures including expanding access to capital and accelerating the regulatory approval process for projects.
Reininger believes increasing the borrowing cap for private activity bonds would help high-speed rail progress in the U.S. Currently, up to $15 million can be borrowed through the bonds, and Reininger wants the cap to at least double to $30 million.
The Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program also needs to be leaned on more. Over the past two decades just $6.2 billion has been earmarked for RRIF programs, with zero money going to high-speed rail projects. Reininger said projects with riskier credit profiles could become eligible for grants, and in turn those grants could be used to offset the up-front cost of RRIF financing.