Those in Florida who had been holding onto a sliver of hope high speed rail might still come to their state had those hopes dashed late Friday as U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said this was no longer a possibility. The reason why? Amtrak, a proposed partner with local cities trying to pool resources without official state aid, said it does not feel there’s enough time to meet the April 4 deadline for federal funds.
To recap, Florida was considered at one point a prime area by President Obama’s administration for high speed rail. The state was offered $2.4 billion in federal funds to help get such a line linking Orlando, Tampa and Miami off the ground. New Florida Republican governor Rick Scott, citing what he felt was fiscal responsibility, turned down the funds despite calls from many corners otherwise. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said that, instead of just spreading the money around, he’d put it out for a competitive bidding process that was open to municipalities across the country. Several Florida cities got together to try and work with Amtrak to still bring the project to their region, but the end result is still, at least for the time being, no high speed rail in the Sunshine State.
Amtrak did tell Nelson in a letter that if future federal funding were made available as it has in the past for high speed rail, and if there were a chance Florida might be eligible for it, that it would work with those in state to try to put together a new proposal – even if this likely means leaving that state’s governor out of it.
President Obama, meanwhile, took Scott to task for his decision to kick back the HSR funding. In Miami on Friday, Obama said in an interview that “frankly, I think the governor was wrong on this.”