Plenty of other states will want the passenger rail money that Florida's governor rejected, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, while the canceled high-speed rail project could have eased congestion on Florida's highways.
"There is overwhelming demand for high speed rail in other states that are enthusiastic to receive Florida's funding," LaHood said in a statement shortly after Gov. Rick Scott announced he was ending that state's plan for bullet train service between Tampa and Orlando. Scott said Florida is forgoing $2.4 billion in promised federal funds.
The DOT chief said the Obama administration is "extremely disappointed" by Scott's decision "to walk away from the job creating and economic development benefits of high speed rail in Florida." Other states will want the money, LaHood said, to reap gains "such as manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as private development along its corridors."
The project, the first leg of what was eventually to be a high-speed passenger rail corridor extending to Miami, was expected to be the first in the nation to use super fast passenger trains operating in a dedicated corridor. California is also pursuing a high-speed plan, but other states' rail plans are speeding up or adding new Amtrak-style service that shares track lanes with freight railroads.
In killing the Florida plan Feb. 16, Scott cited the risk that state taxpayers could be left with $3 billion in potential cost overruns. LaHood disputed that. "We worked with the governor to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state," the secretary said, "instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses."
Scott also said he instead favors investment in freight rail, ports and highways to handle more goods linked to international trade. But LaHood said of the canceled passenger rail project that "it is projects like these that will help America out-build our global competitors and lay the foundation needed to win the future. This project could have supported thousands of good-paying jobs for Floridians and helped grow Florida businesses, all while alleviating congestion on Florida's highways."
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