WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation announced late Friday that it is opening up the $2.4 billion of federal high-speed rail money that was rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to a competitive bidding process for states willing to take on new projects.
States have until 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on April 4 to submit their bids for any portion of the money, according to a DOT statement. Projects will be graded on how well they improve local transportation needs as well as generate economic sustainability and reduce energy consumption.
States “have been banging down our door” to get the rail money, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in the release. Already, states on the East and West coasts have lobbied LaHood for the Florida money.
Scott, a Republican elected last November who has called high-speed rail “a federal boondoggle,” spurned the money over fears the project would eventually need to be subsidized by the state if it encountered cost overruns or sparse ridership. Scott battled with local and federal lawmakers who wanted the project kept alive because it was viewed as the one furthest along in the country.
Now, states are being asked to compete for the money. There is no bid-dollar amount that is too small or too large to be considered, according to the DOT. However, applicants are encouraged to submit bids that include non-federal matching funds to complement their project’s potential financing. All projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2017, the department said.
Two other states, Wisconsin and Ohio, have also rejected federal high-speed rail money. A portion of those funds have already been directed to Washington State.
House Transportation Committee chairman John Mica, R-Fla., has indicated that the Northeast Corridor offers the most fertile opportunity for high-speed rail.