Florida gets more time to rescue high-speed rail

The Department of Transportation has given Florida Governor Rick Scott an extra week to consider alternate plans for using the state’s $2.4bn of high-speed rail grants. Citing concerns over cost overruns, Scott has now twice rejected using the funds.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has granted Florida Governor Rick Scott one more week to consider proposals to rescue his state’s high-speed rail project.

“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,” LaHood said in a statement.

LaHood said he met with Scott this morning to discuss the state’s role in the project, “as well as how the state would be protected from liability”.  LaHood said Scott “has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week”.

The Department of Transportation had previously set a deadline for today, and Scott said to media outlets yesterday that he still considered the project to be too risky to approve the alternative proposals submitted to him by members of Congress and local governments.

Last week Scott rejected$2.4 billion in federal funds for Florida’s high-speed rail project, effectively killing plans to construct an 84-mile Tampa to Orlando line. Scott argued that the project could have cost overruns of up to $3 billion, and put the state on the hook for hundreds of millions. 

Politicians, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica, a Florida Republican, had proposed plans to rescue the state’s rail programme by shifting responsibility for all or part of the project to local entities which could then transfer the risk to the private sector.