WASHINGTON -- Most of the $2.4 billion rejected by Gov. Rick Scott for an Orlando-to-Tampa fast train was spread throughout the nation Monday for almost two dozen rail projects.
In Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood revealed the money would be used to speed up trains in the busy Northeast corridor, expand service in the Midwest “and provide state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars ... to transform travel in America.”
In all, the Federal Railroad Administration selected 15 states and Amtrak to receive $2.02 billion for 22 high-speed rail projects.
Almost $800 million of the money will used in Northeast to increase speeds from 135 to 160 mph on critical segments and add more seats for passengers.
Another $404.1 million will go toward expanding high-speed rail service between Detroit and Chicago and for rail upgrades from Chicago to St. Louis.
A total of $336.2 million will be used for “state-of-the-art” locomotives and rail cars for California and the Midwest.
And $300 million is slated to “continue laying the groundwork” for the nation’s first 220-mph high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
“The investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities,” LaHood said in a statement.
Scott rejected the $2.4 billion grant for a train that would have linked Orlando International Airport with Central Florida’s tourism corridor and downtown Tampa. Scott, who dismissed the project as ObamaRail, said he feared the system would lose billions of dollars, leaving state taxpayers on the hook.
Supporters of the train countered that the federal government and the private operator would have held the state harmless. A ridership study, completed after Scott decided to kill the 84-mile system, concluded the train would have made money.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who tried to get Scott to change his mind, said the reallocation of the money was “a somber reminder that Florida lost a major new transportation system and 24,000 good-paying jobs simply because of political extremism, a mindset that we had to do it the governor’s way or get lost.”