Florida to get $800 million more for Tampa to Orlando high speed rail route

The man leading in the polls to represent Florida in the Senate in Washington, Republican Marco Rubio, has been equally non enthusiastic about supporting high speed rail.

What that means is that with today's announcement of $800 million more for construction of the Tampa/Orlando line, there should be no turning back on that plan.

However, no funds have been allocated for what many experts believe will be the far more lucrative route - from Orlando to Miami, which is estimated to cost $8 billion.  Will there be a will in Tallahassee and Washington to fund that?

The reason that that particular route was not the first planned is because the Tampa to Orlando line  was "shovel ready," if you will, with 90%  of the right-of-way for such a line already owned by the state.

Florida transportation officials are expected to award bids for the construction of the Tampa-Orlando line early next year.

Florida will receive $800 million more in federal funds to help construction of its first high speed rail line, scheduled to go from Tampa to Orlando.

That news comes via a press release from Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson's office, which reports that Nelson received the news via Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“This is fantastic news for Florida,” said Senator Nelson.  “This will ensure the state remains full speed ahead with high-speed rail construction.  As I’ve said many times, high-speed rail will be a game changer for Florida’s economy, along the likes of the Interstate system and Disney.

The additional $800 million comes on top of $1.25 billion President Obama announced in January the state would receive for the Tampa to Orlando stretch.   According to the Senator's office,  this means Florida only needs approximately $300 million more from the federal government in addition to the state’s share of funding to complete the $2.6 billion Tampa-to-Orlando route.

That's if the state follows through.  We've reported on Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's conflicting messages on whether he supports funding the state's portion of constructing a high speed rail plan.

A Scott spokesman is quoted in a story in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune on the subject:

"Rick Scott has no particular aversion to creating a high-speed rail system in Florida," Trey Stapleton said. "However, he does believe that before the state should commit to such a financial obligation, both the upfront capital and ongoing operating cost, that the investment must be justified by demonstrating a return on investment to the citizens whose tax money would be used to fund the system."

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