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DOT seeks way to salvage Florida high-speed rail project

(The following appeared on The Journal of Commerce website on February 17, 2011.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite the Feb. 16 decision by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to decline $2.4 billion in federal grants and halt a planned high-speed rail line, the Department of Transportation is exploring ways to keep the project alive.

Washington sources say Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has not yet decided to pull Florida grants for a bullet train service between Tampa and Orlando, which would be the first truly high-speed rail line in the U.S. and the first leg of a service that would eventually run to Miami.

In December, LaHood quickly redirected $1.2 billion in grants after incoming Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio vowed to kill projects to expand Amtrak passenger service using freight rail corridors. But this time, the outcome could be different, as LaHood and members of Congress are huddling to see if the project can move forward "without the state's involvement," one source said.

A revamped Tampa-Orlando plan could mean a restructuring of the whole program by giving private developers instead of states a chance to build some of these systems.

The full story appears at www.joc.com.

Friday, February 18, 2011

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