There was no shortage of takers for the $1.2 billion in federal passenger-rail funds that newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio said they don’t want. U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Dec. 9 that 14 states may divide the $1.2 billion that earlier had been awarded to Wisconsin and Ohio. California will get the largest share of the turned-back funds, $624 million.
Many observers will be watching Florida to see whether the $342.3 million the Sunshine State gets in the redistribution will be enough to keep alive a proposed Tampa-Orlando rail line. Governor-elect Rick Scott (R) has said he won't proceed with the project if Florida is required to contribute more of its of own funds. The additional money supplements $2 billion DOT awarded to Florida earlier this year and brings the state’s federal total to the amount it had requested from Uncle Sam.
But the latest federal installment does not eliminate the need for Florida to put up $280 million of its own money. The Legislature agreed in December 2009 to contribute a total of $280 million, in annual payments set to begin in 2014.
Scott apparently hasn’t made a final decision yet on the rail line. He said, “I’m pleased that the federal government recognizes that sound infrastructure is key to Florida's economic growth. I look forward to reviewing the feasibility of this project in terms of return to Florida’s taxpayers.” Scott says he also wants to look at private-sector interest in funding the rail line.
A U.S. DOT spokesperson says the Federal Railroad Administration and Florida “are actively working to make progress on the state’s high-speed-rail plan.”
Over all, LaHood said, “I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed-rail network to life.”
U.S. DOT divided up the $1.2 billion “in proportion to the amount of their initial high-speed rail awards,” the spokesperson says.
Of the redistributed funds, $810 million came from Wisconsin, where Governor-elect Scott Walker (R) said he will cancel a planned 80-mile line from Madison to Milwaukee. But Wisconsin still will get up to $2 million from DOT for upgrades on the existing Milwaukee-Chicago “Hiawatha” train service.
The other $400 million that U.S. DOT parceled out comes from Ohio, whose governor-elect, John Kasich (R), has pledged to halt plans for a Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati rail network.
U.S. DOT has awarded a total of $10.5 billion in high-speed-rail funds: $8 billion from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and $2.5 billion from its regular appropriations.