Florida gets an extra week to think about high-speed rail funds

During the meeting, LaHood provided the governor additional information on the proposed Florida high-speed rail project between Tampa and Orlando. LaHood has said he worked with former Gov. Charlie Crist "to make sure we eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses."

"I am grateful the governor has agreed to listen to the facts on how the state will have no financial responsibility in high speed rail," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). "I’m especially grateful to Secretary LaHood for giving Florida at least one more week before our money goes to another state. Hopefully, this will be enough time for people of good intentions to come together and put Florida’s interests first. There is too much at stake for us not to try everything we can."

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), also expressed approval of the agreement forged between Scott and LaHood.

"I hope a sub-grantee arrangement can be structured that will salvage part or all of the project in a viable way that will protect Florida taxpayers from financial risk," Mica said in a statement. 

After the announcement by Scott on Feb. 16, Nelson went searching for a source that could accept federal funding in place of the state. 

Lawyers are researching whether a metropolitan planning organization in Tampa and a rail authority in southern Florida, which have volunteered to step forward in place of the state, can accept oversight of the rail project and the $2.4 billion in federal funds. 

The White House announced a plan recently to dedicate $53 billion over six years to expanding high-speed rail with $8 billion planned for the fiscal 2012 budget.