States vie for $2.4bn in rejected high-speed rail funds

Applications are due Monday for $2.4bn in federal high-speed rail funds rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott. California’s High-Speed Rail Authority has already said it wants the entire sum, which is 'more than welcome' as it builds its 800-mile rail network.

California’s High Speed Rail Authority, the body in charge of building out the state's 800-mile network of high-speed rail, will request all of the $2.4 billion in federal funding rejected by Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott.

The California High Speed Rail Authority said the state could also commit 20 percent matching funds “in order to make California more competitive” for the federal money, according to a statement. 

California's High Speed Rail
Authority: benefiting from
other states' discontent
with high-speed rail funds

“The $2 billion that Florida rejected are more than welcome here,” California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made Florida’s funds available to other states pursuing high-speed rail programmes after Scott canceled Florida’s Tampa to Miami rail project on the grounds that it could cost the state up to $3 billion in construction overruns and hundreds of millions in subsidies.

California is not the only state vying for the rejected funds.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, said earlier this week that his state will request an additional $1 billion in federal funding. Ten US Senators have also written a letter to LaHood to request funds for the Northeast Corridor, an Amtrak passenger line connecting major cities along the eastern seaboard from Washington DC to Boston. Amtrak has previously estimated it would cost $117 billion to upgrade the corridor into a high-speed rail line.

Applications for the additional funds are due Monday, 4 April.

Scott was the third US governor to reject high-speed rail funds for his state. In December, governors in Wisconsin and Ohio rejected about $1.2 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail.  Those funds were then redistributed to other states in proportion to the size of the original high-speed rail awards from the 2009 stimulus programme, with California and Florida receiving the highest shares of that money.

California has already received $3.6 billion in federal funding for its project, including redistributed funds, the original stimulus award, and grants from the 2010 budget.

The US Department of Transportation said in a statement that the projects would be subject to a 100-percent “Buy America” requirement, meaning that the project may be obligated to use only US-produced steel, iron and manufactured goods.

The department also said the selection criteria include “a project’s ability to reduce energy consumption, improve the efficiency of a region’s overall transportation network, and generate sustained economic activity along the corridor”.