Republican governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida grabbed headlines by rejecting federal high-speed-rail funds awarded to their states, but many other governors—Democrats and Republicans—are hungry for the money that was turned back. In a signal that demand for rail money still outpaces supply, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has received almost $10 billion in requests for shares of $2 billion in rail aid Florida rejected earlier this year.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said on April 6 that 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted more than 90 applications for the money Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) turned back.
David Carol, Parsons Brinckerhoff's market leader for high-speed rail, says, “I think it demonstrates an extremely strong interest by those states that remain involved in the high-speed-rail program.” Florida originally received $2.4 billion from DOT, but the new congressional budget deal rescinded $400 million of that amount. The budget agreement also ensures that the interstate chase for Florida's former high-speed-rail (HSR) money will be the last such competition for a while. The pact slashes all $2.5 billion in HSR funds that had been appropriated to DOT for fiscal 2011.
However, DOT still has available $2 billion of the funds that Florida turned back. The department says it has not yet decided when it will announce the winning proposals. As DOT evaluates the requests, its top criterion will be “project readiness.” It says applications for programs or projects that have final National Environmental Policy Act determinations “will be looked upon favorably” in its review.
Another readiness factor is whether an applicant owns the track or structures involved in the proposed project or is moving toward an agreement with “key project partners,” such as freight railroads that control the infrastructure.
Amtrak, which is eligible for the first time to compete for high-speed-rail funds, applied for about $1.3 billion, all for projects on the Northeast Corridor, which it owns. The largest item in Amtrak's request is $570 million for a $720-million replacement for the 101-year-old Portal Bridge over New Jersey's Hackensack River.
|Applicant||Total ($ millions)||Major Projects|
|Extensions to Merced and Bakersfield|
|Portal Bridge replacement, New Jersey|
|New York|| |
|Harold Interlocking, New York City|
|Fourth track, station improvements, near BWI Marshall airport|
|Improvements on Hartford-Springfield, Mass., line|
|Stabilize hillsides, replace trestle|
|Replace Merrimack River bridge|
|Proposed Dallas/Fort Worth line; engineering, enviro. studies|
|Willsburg Junction-Clackamas line, engineering studies|
|Source: State agencies, Amtrak. Note: California amount rounded.|