Washington state library project kicks off new DOT loan program

May 22, 2024

A project to build a combination library and community center with electric vehicle chargers near a bus and train station in Mt. Vernon, Washington, is the first to benefit from a new Department of Transportation loan program that focuses on placing important community resources within walking distance of public transportation.

The DOT recently approved its inaugural Transit-Oriented Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan for up to $26.8 million for the Mt. Vernon Library Commons project. The building will encompass half a city block in downtown Mount Vernon and will be located a short walk away from Skagit Station – Skagit County’s multi-modal transportation center.

The project to be completed this summer will include meeting rooms, a commercial kitchen, a parking garage, a STEM center and computing space, the DOT said.

The project is financed through the TFIA’s Rural Project Initiative for up to 49% of the project costs with an interest rate of approximately 2.25% – half the Treasury rate. The DOT also waived adviser fees.

The interest rate saved the city $3 million over traditional financing, said Jill Boudreau, project administrator and former Mt. Vernon mayor.

“Our project would not have been possible without this tool,” Boudreau said.

TOD is a new but fast-growing category within DOT’s Build America Bureau, which offers below-market rate financing on infrastructure projects. 

The Mt. Vernon Project will provide EV charging along the I-5 Alternative Fuel Corridor, install ADA-compliant sidewalk and signalized crosswalk improvements, reduce the building’s ecological footprint through low-carbon architecture and solar power generation, and catalyze the local and regional economy by encouraging private investment in nearby mixed-use development, the DOT said.

“Having a library, public restrooms, a community center, and a kitchen all under one roof – and only steps away from Skagit station – will be a major benefit for the people of Mount Vernon,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “This is the first of what we hope will be many TOD loans that will make vital resources more accessible to more people, especially historically overlooked communities.”

The Bureau has 20 projects under development and two in the credit underwriting process. Projects range from public buildings, affordable housing to community redevelopment. Total requests are more than $12 billion in long-term financing, currently representing one-third of the Bureau’s pipeline of projects to be financed.

The Federal Highway Administration also awarded the City of Mount Vernon $12.5 million through the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program to install 78 EV charging ports in the project’s parking garage.

The project design allows for another 200 charging ports in the future, creating what could be the nation’s largest regional EV charging hub, the DOT said.

The project is also receiving financial assistance through the Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Photo courtesy of the USDOT

Miles Smith

Miles Smith has more than two decades of communications experience in the public and private sectors, including several years of covering local governments for various daily and weekly print publications. His scope of work includes handling public relations for large private-sector corporations and managing public-facing communications for local governments.

Smith has recently joined the team as a content writer for SPI’s news publications, which include Texas Government Insider, Government Contracting Pipeline and its newest digital product, Government Market News, which launched in September 2023. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in journalism.

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