High-Speed Rail

Valley rail project might score more funds

Florida's loss could be the Valley's gain after the Obama administration took back $2.4 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed trains between Tampa and Orlando.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday that the money will be made available to other states to develop high-speed rail systems.

Officials with the California High-Speed Rail Authority said they are eager to compete for the funds. The authority is developing plans for an 800-mile system that would connect the state's major metropolitan areas with passenger trains capable of traveling at 220 mph. A 120-mile stretch from Fresno to Bakersfield has been chosen as the first piece to be built, with construction proposed to start in late 2012 or early 2013.

If California gets some of Florida's money, it could extend the initial construction segment in the Valley, authority CEO Roelof van Ark said Friday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected the federal funds and killed his state's project because of concerns over high operating costs. Scott is the third newly elected Republican governor to turn back federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail.

Governors from Ohio and Wisconsin turned down stimulus money late last year -- a total of $1.2 billion between the two states. About $616 million was redirected to California for the Valley section of high-speed rail.

The federal government so far has committed about $3.5 billion to high-speed rail in California. Besides California, the states of New York, Virginia, Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island have asked LaHood for Florida's rail funds.

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