LaHood puts Florida rail money up for grabs

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday he was officially making the $2.4 billion in high speed rail money that had been rejected by Florida available to other states.

LaHood has repeatedly said there was a great deal of interest in building high speed railways, despite Florida's rejection. Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) became the third newly-elected GOP governor to turn down the funds.

The transportation secretary has said he would have no trouble finding another state to take the money.

He said on Friday that new applications for the funds would be collected until April 4th.

“The Obama administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will create jobs, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and spur economic development for years to come,” LaHood said in a statement.

“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," he added.

Several northeastern senators have already written LaHood asking for the money, and California is expected to make a play for the cash as well for an 800-mile railway it places to build connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonGore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Honda recalls 1.2 million cars over battery fires Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (D-Fla.), who had criticized Scott for rejecting the funds, hailed LaHood's decision as a win for Florida, saying that LaHood told him a regional rail authority in the state could compete the with other state governments for the money.

“Florida’s chances are alive, thanks to Secretary LaHood,” Nelson 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.”

However, Nelson said the regional authority would have to apply for the funds in tandem with Amtrak or another existing transportation authority.