All Aboard: Unclaimed High-Speed Rail $ Officially Available

March 17, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

All Aboard: Unclaimed High-Speed Rail $ Officially AvailableThe funding train for high-speed rail projects is leaving the station…again. Good news this week for all those states vying for a slice of the federal high-speed rail funds Florida turned down: the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration said this week that it is officially accepting applications.

Following Florida’s very public refusal of $2.4 billion set aside to build a high-speed rail corridor between Orlando and Tampa, the Obama administration accepted the funds back and pivoted to redistribute the money. DOT released a notice of funding availability this week.

Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood set out to remind folks just why the administration is pushing high-speed rail. In both a blog post on the DOT’s website  and an op-ed in The Hill LaHood argued that high speed rail will be a solid job generator and will help the U.S. position itself on the leading edge of transportation innovation.

When Florida initially refused the money, elected officials from several states said they would be happy to step into the void. (Note to all those who raised their hands last month: applications are due by April 4, so you might need to hustle to catch this funding train.)

The FRA said it intends to make multiple awards this time around in recognition of the “limited funding currently available.” The agency advised applicants to subdivide high-cost projects into smaller, bite-size pieces to allow for maximum flexibility during the award stage.

And while Florida may not want the $2.4 billion, LaHood said in his blog post today that his “phone hasn’t stopped ringing with calls from governors, legislators and others seeking a share.”

Debate over whether high-speed rail is the best use of federal dollars when the U.S. faces other critical infrastructure challenges is unlikely to die down anytime soon. DOT has started funneling some money into other infrastructure—most recently awarding $9.5 million in grants aimed at reducing congestion and funding some investment in highways and bridges—but in the meantime the agency continues to tout high-speed rail as the transportation mode for the future.




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