Amtrak, 15 states get high-speed rail money rejected by Gov. Rick Scott

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Amtrak and rail projects in 15 states are being awarded the $2 billion that Florida lost after the governor canceled plans for high-speed train service, the Department of Transportation said Monday, reports Joan Lowy of the Huffington Post.

The largest share of the money ?nearly $800 million ?will be used to upgrade train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph on critical segments of the heavily traveled Northeast corridor, the department said in a statement.

Another $404 million will go to expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest, including newly constructed segments of 110-mph track between Detroit and Chicago that are expected to save passengers 30 minutes in travel time.

Nearly $340 million will go toward state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars for California and the Midwest. California will also get another $300 million toward trains that will travel up to 220 mph between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and rail cars,” Vice President Joseph Biden said in a statement.

President Barack Obama has sought to make creation a national network of high-speed trains a signature project of his administration. He has said he wants to make fast trains accessible to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years.

The money ?initially $2.4 billion ?had been awarded to Florida for high-speed trains between Tampa and Orlando. After Gov. Rick Scott canceled the project, the Transportation Department invited other states to bid for the funds. It received 90 applications seeking a total of $10 billion.

Scott said he was concerned that the state government would be locked into years of operating subsidies. However, a report by the state’s transportation department forecast the rail line would be profitable. The project initially had been approved by Scott’s predecessor, Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.