Florida Gov. Rick Scott submitted a list of major freight-related port and highway project needs to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as Scott rebuffed federal offers of $2.4 billion in federal high-speed passenger rail money.
He listed harbor dredging needs at the ports of Miami and Jacksonville, an intermodal container facility at Port Everglades and six big highway projects around the state that could use the funds he freed up by ending Florida's plan for a bullet train service between Tampa and Orlando. "I believe that the dollars being made available for proposed high-speed rail projects are better invested in higher yield projects," Scott told LaHood.
Those include, Scott said, "port facilities and highway and rail connections that drive domestic commerce and international trade," plus transit and aviation needs. He also said such projects would help prepare Florida for the Panama Canal expansion and goods from pending free trade agreements.
Scott's suggestion of other ways Florida could use the money is likely to face the same result as earlier moves by Wisconsin and Ohio to turn down passenger rail money. The terms of the intercity passenger rail program do not allow states to apply unused rail money to other types of projects, but require it to go back to the Department of Transportation to reallocate to other rail applicants.
LaHood in December redirected $1.2 billion from Wisconsin and Ohio to rail projects submitted by other states, including Florida. In a brief response Wednesday to Scott, LaHood said there is "overwhelming demand" from states that will now want the rail money Florida is turning down, and that will get the rail and manufacturing jobs tied to it.
But Scott said investing now in trade-related infrastructure would be a better choice for Florida. "By capturing a larger share of containerized imports entering our seaports, expanding export markets for Florida businesses and emerging as a global hub for trade and investment, we can create up to 143,000 additional jobs," he said.
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