Other states’ decisions to not accept federal rail funding will benefit Florida, providing the final $342 million needed to build the $2.6 billion, 84-mi long high speed rail corridor from Orlando to Tampa.

“We’re excited and looking forward to it,” says Nazih Haddad, chief operating officer of Florida Rail Enterprise, established within the Florida Dept. of Transportation by the legislature in 2009.

But will the new governor of Florida accept the federal money, which is estimated to put 25,000 people to work during its four years of construction? Despite Governor-elect Rick Scott’s campaign promise to create more jobs, no one knows if the Republican will pull the plug on the rail line. Scott has voiced opposition to rail if it requires state funds, which it does.

The state has agreed to pay $280 million toward high-speed rail, Haddad says. The legislature approved the funds last December, with annual payments of $60 million set to begin in 2014.

Of course, this latest largesse is the result of the incoming Republican governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, John Kasich and Scott Walker, declining American Recovery and Reinvestment Act high-speed rail money. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood then redirected that $1.195 billion previously allocated to Ohio and Wisconsin to projects already under way in other states, including that $342.3 million for Florida.

But Scott's situation also has been compared to that of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who scuttled the $8.7-billion (estimated) Trans-Hudson River rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York. Gov. Christie's argument against that project was that the state simply couldn't risk any significant additional state expenses to cover the cost of the project.

In Florida, meanwhile, the pols are lining up to convince the incoming governor of the need to accept these funds and get this project moving.

“The federal government has stepped up and done its part,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said in a written statement. “There should be no reason now why this can’t get done.”

The receipt of these funds brings the total amount of federal commitment consistent with what the state had requested in its original application to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation in August 2010, adds FDOT spokesman Dick Kane in an email response to questions. Kane did not address Scott’s prior comments against the train, but he said FDOT will “continue to develop the project documents and continue our coordination with all appropriate parties.”

Florida is moving forward with plans to solicit bids in January, two months later than anticipated, for the first of $170 million in early works contracts to prepare the medians, move signs, demuck wet areas and widen parts of Interstate 4 to make way for the rail line. FDOT estimates that work will create more than 2,000 jobs in 2011 and 2012. FDOT also plans to request qualifications after the first of the year from the consortiums that want to design-build, operate, maintain and finance the high-speed rail line.

Scott’s transition team sent the following statement from the governor elect: “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. I’m also interested in understanding the private sector's interest in funding this infrastructure project.”