In a move that wasn’t really much of a surprise, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced last week that the $2.4 billion in funds made available to Florida for construction of high speed rail that was rejected by that state’s Republican governor Rick Scott is now up for grabs. Perhaps throwing a bit of a lifeline to others however who might still want the funds in Florida, the federal dollars are being made available through what is being called a competitive process.
As has been the case now in three states, new Republican governors have been rejecting federal dollars offered by the Obama administration to help out in developing high speed rail. While other nations continue to develop their high speed rail systems, the United States continues to lag behind them, much like in clean energy. Political bickering between Democrats and the GOP, as well as budget realities, have much to do with this.
The competitive process outlined by Secretary LaHood, which will be open for bids through April 4, is tied to President Obama’s goal of 80 percent of Americans with high speed rail access within the next 25 years. A proposed six-year, $53 billion plan has been met with strong resistance from various corners, despite the president’s belief the new railway infrastructure development reportedly would create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has been a big proponent of bringing high speed rail to his state, citing a recent study from the new defunct Florida Department of Transportation high speed rail web site that “concluded that by the end of the first year, a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando would produce an operating surplus of $10.2 million.” He’s not giving up however, especially in light of the open process for the funds, believing that “it’s possible for a new regional transit authority comprised of officials from cities along the future rail route – Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami – to compete against other states without Scott’s support.”