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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 09:32 AM ET, 04/06/2011

States, D.C. and Amtrak vie for high-speed rail money

Federal transportation officials say 24 states, the District and Amtrak are competing for $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money that was to have gone to Florida.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement released Wednesday that his department is reviewing 90 rail project applications requesting a total of $10 billion.

The deadline for the applications was Monday.

Last month, LaHood took back the $2.4 billion that had been designated for a Florida project that would have connected Tampa and Orlando with high-speed trains. Gov. Rick Scott canceled the project, saying he didn’t want to obligate the state to make up any operating losses.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced Tuesday that his state had officially submitted two applications for a portion of the money. The projects would upgrade the train station at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, including adding a fourth track near the station, and fund studies on upgrading three bridges for MARC’s Penn Line.

Virginia received about $45 million in an announcement last fall to help develop high-speed rail between Richmond and Washington.

Amtrak is seeking nearly $1.3 billion to speed trains between Boston and Washington.Last year Amtrak unveiled a $117 billion, 30-year vision for high-speed rail on the East Coast that would drastically reduce travel times along the congested corridor. 

According to transportation officials, the Federal Railroad Administration now begins a review of the applications. Criteria includes how the projects save energy, fit into a region’s overall transportation network, and stimulate development along rail corridors.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration proposed a six-year $53 billion plan to invest in high-speed and intercity rail improvements. High-speed rail advocates envision a network of 17,000 miles of rail capable of handling trains traveling at 220 mph.

Critics have argued that Americans will not turn to train travel in sufficient numbers to justify the federal investment. Last year the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin also rejected high-speed rail funds. Before taking office, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) had asked for permission to repurpose $400 million in high-speed rail funds for highway projects, saying he didn’t know who would ride the trains. But LaHood said the state would forfeit the money.

The Obama administration has awarded about $10.5 billion in high-speed rail funds in two rounds of announcements, with California and Florida receiving the most money.

By Associated Press and Staff Reports  |  09:32 AM ET, 04/06/2011

 
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