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Florida gets final chunk of money for high speed rail | Transportation

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Florida gets final chunk of money for high speed rail
Florida gets final chunk of money for high speed rail

Tampa, Florida -- Governor-elect Rick Scott could still say no to the high speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando, but the latest announcement from Washington would make that a politically tougher move.

That's because the $2.6 billion bullet train line is now entirely funded.

Calling it an "early Christmas present," U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Thursday that Florida will receive some $342 million in federal money to help build the high-speed rail system.

What's the saying? One state's trash -- is another state's treasure? The new governors of Ohio and Wisconsin made the promise to turn away high speed rail money in their states.

So Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation took away their $1.2 billion in bullet train bucks and divvied the cash up between other states.

Florida got $342 million. That's the amount that was still missing from the $2.6 billion cost to build the Tampa-Orlando line.

About 90 percent of that total $2.6 billion cost will come from the federal government.

The rest, $280 million, will be either state money that's already been set aside for the project, or could come from the private company that will eventually be chosen to run the high speed rail line.

More Florida High speed rail coverage:
11/10/10 -
High-speed rail stops in Lakeland under scrutiny
11/9/10 - Nelson, Iorio plead with Rick Scott to support high-speed rail
10/8/10 -
Election Day could derail high-speed trains
8/7/10 - High-speed rail workshop for local businesses
7/19/10 -
Work on high-speed rail lines begin along I-4

State Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), a member of Scott's transition team, is preparing to brief the Gov.-elect on rail issues and doesn't anticipate him pulling the plug on the high-speed electric train.

"There seems to be some misconception out there that this is going to be a drain on the taxpayers of Florida," said Dockery. "Nothing could be further from the truth. And that's what Rick Scott wants to see."

Dockery says a private-public partnership with the companies bidding for the project could net hundreds of millions for the state -- possibly more than the $280 million the state has pledged for the project.

"I don't anticipate the state needing to put any money in toward the construction of the Tampa-to-Orlando leg," said Dockery.

Scott has not taken a firm position on whether he will green light the project to go forward.

During his campaign for governor, Scott said he would only support high speed rail in Florida if it wouldn't be a burden on Florida taxpayers and looked like it would show a good return on any state money invested in it.

After the election, the New York Times reported Scott was willing to take another look at the numbers to see if the project was viable, in his view.

Sen. Nelson, who announced the extra money for Florida, said he also thinks Scott will get on board with the bullet train project.

"I think, for the governor-elect to reject it at this point... it's almost beyond the point of no return because of the value to Florida and the number of jobs in the middle of a recession," Nelson said.

Building the rail line is expected to employ close to 10,000 people by 2012.

The first stage of Florida's high speed rail line will have five stops, connecting Tampa, Polk County, Walt Disney World, the Orange County Convention Center, and Orlando International Airport.

That line is scheduled to be up and running by 2015.


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