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Obama administration gives Florida an extra week to devise alternate high-speed rail plan

by George Bennett | February 17th, 2011

House Transporation Chairman John Mica, R-Winter Park, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson say they'll try to find alternative plan to collect a $2.4 billion federal high-speed rail grant after Gov. Rick Scott rejected the money.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has given Florida an extra week to figure out a way to draw $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail after Gov. Rick Scott rejected the grant Wednesday.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who met with LaHood and five Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation this afternoon, said he hopes Amtrak or a local planning or transit authority would step in to assume the risk of cost overruns after Scott said those risks were too great for state taxpayers. Private business could also be part of the mix, Nelson said.

Scott would still have to sign off on such an arrangement, Nelson said.

The deadline for Florida to accept the federal money was Friday, but Nelson said LaHood extended the date to Feb. 25. LaHood didn’t talk to reporters after the meeting in Nelson’s office.

The federal money would pay an estimated 90 percent of the cost of a rail line from Tampa to Orlando. Long-term plans call for an Orlando-to-Miami link as well.

“Our enemy at this point is time,” Nelson told reporters.

“We cannot allow this money to come back to Washington to go to another state. We would be the laughingstock of the nation,” said U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami.


“There is too much at stake in connection with high-speed rail for us to let this fail,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

“We’ve worked too hard to come up with an approach to help shape Florida’s future that is bipartisan, that tells the business community around the country and around the world that Florida’s a place to come and to invest. It is in the best interests of our state. We can create jobs now,” Deutch said.

Nelson and all the representatives in the meeting with LaHood were Democrats, but House Transportation Chairman John Mica, R-Winter Park, showed up afterward and voiced support for trying to rescue the federal grant. Mica said other Republicans are on board as well.

“The cart’s in the ditch right now and we’re trying to figure out a way if we could all pull it out together,” Mica said. Mica said he was “taken aback” by Scott’s decision to reject the federal money. He said the governor didn’t give him or other rail supporters enough time to explore alternatives, such as private sector participation.

Mica also took issue with Scott’s suggestion the project won’t meet ridership goals.

“If I didn’t believe it was cost-effective at this point, I wouldn’t be here,” Mica said.


6 Responses to “Obama administration gives Florida an extra week to devise alternate high-speed rail plan”

  1. Dump The Debt Says:

    Scott is smart to take up the mantra of legislative leaders like Haridopolos who have opposed this high speed rail debt disaster. we’ve had enough of the take it or leave it mandates from Washington and I’m glad haridopolos and others serious about debt started this drumbeat months ago. The federal money doesn’t even fund the entire cost! I don’t think we have record unemployment in our state because we’ve needed a high speed rail from Tampa to Disney. Nelson is out of touch at best.

  2. same ol same ol Says:

    Hang in there, Rick!

    Don’t fall for this baited poison carrot!

    We struggling working people are depending upon you to take the strong leadership role for which we elected you . . . and start negating the effects of years of irresponsible wasteful government spending that is currently drowning us.

  3. Cesar M. Gonzalez Says:

    All of the comments against high speed rail which I’ve seen here are from people who offer no intelligent alternative to how to move millions of tourists who bring billions of dollars to Florida…..
    Brazilians alone brought tens of millions of dollars to Miami-Dade County in 2010…
    I do believe that some Floridians live in a dream world where orange groves and alligator skins constitute our economy…I can’t deal with such a mindset….The train WILL pay for itself, and provide THOUSANDS of jobs to unemployed Floridians. Use the money, or California will get it, and we LOSE big time. Let’s get private enterprise in it….We only have a week to fix this….

  4. Ed Zackery Says:

    Cesar, you make a good salad but you are not going to convince those of us with brains to build the Jewish Mafia that owns Disney a high speed rail to get those idiots who fly into Tamper International over the Disney for a day of screwing! If Disney Jews want this rail let them pay for it! They sure as hell don’t share their bounty with us! They don’t even want to pay their Porter Ricans they brought from San Juan over to work of minimum wage enough to afford their Obamacare payments

  5. stevecody Says:

    If “conservatives” ran Florida in the past, the Kennedy Space Center would be a bus stop. I know progress scares you people but as a Florida native, I beg you people to allow our beautiful state to enter the 21st century.

  6. stevecody Says:

    ..or you could just surrender to genuises like Ed Zachary

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