Feds give Florida 1 more week to come up with rail plan

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has given Florida one more week to work out a deal on high-speed rail, a dramatic development in the saga.

In a statement released Friday, LaHood said: "This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida. He asked me for additional information about the state's role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability. I have decided to give Governor Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation. He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile."

Thursday — a day before the original deadline — Scott said he saw nothing in the proposed deal to alleviate his concern that taxpayers would not be on the hook for unforeseen costs.

And Friday morning, Scott's spokesman, Brian Burgess, told the Orlando Sentinel, "The governor has not seen any proposal that alleviates the state's risk," echoing what Scott said Thursday.

But Scott met in person with LaHood and apparently asked for more information and time to review the deal. LaHood gave him an additional week to decide whether the proposal was sound and accept the $2.4 billion in funding.

Scott is in Washington today for meetings with other Republican governors.

It's unclear when Scott changed his mind or what convinced him to take a closer look.

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