LaHood makes $2.4 billion available for high-speed rail projects

LaHood gave Scott some extra time to reconsider but the Florida governor eventually decided against accepting the funds, putting them back into the pot for use by other states. 

"States across the country have been banging down our door for the opportunity to receive additional high-speed rail dollars and to deliver all of its economic benefits to their citizens,” LaHood said in a statement. 

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) hailed the decision as a way for Florida to reclaim the funding. 

"Florida’s chances are alive, thanks to Secretary LaHood," he  said. “Secretary LaHood said it’s possible for ‘a Florida transit group’ to apply.  That means hope is alive for thousands of good-paying jobs and a modernized transportation system."

Nelson’s comments came shortly after a telephone conversation with LaHood in which the secretary informed him a regional rail authority in Florida could compete openly with other states like New York and California that have been clamoring for Florida’s money since last month.  

Transportation will award the funding on a competitive basis to those "projects that can deliver public and economic benefits quickly."

Any project that aims to reduce energy consumption, improve the efficiency of a region’s overall transportation network and generate sustained economic activity will be considered for the funding. 

Applications for the additional high-speed rail money are due April 4.

The Obama administration had previously proposed a six-year, $53 billion plan that will provide rail access to new communities and eventually connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within the next 25 years. 

A report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, projected that high-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs in cities and along rail corridors across the country, according to the Transportation Department.