Feds allow northeast states to compete for Florida high-speed rail money

Reversing an earlier decision, the Department of Transportation this week designated the Northeast as a federal rail corridor.

The decision means the Northeast will be able to compete for $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funds that were rejected by Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Lawmakers from the region had pressed the administration for the decision.

“Given the Northeast Corridor's strong track record with high-speed rail and the region's high gross domestic product, improvements to the Corridor's rail service would be a smart investment of Florida's rejected high-speed rail funds,” senators from New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut wrote this week in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

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“We believe that Secretary LaHood's recent decisions are a positive step that will encourage further higher speed rail development along the Northeast Corridor,” they continued. “We will continue to work with the administration to ensure that the Corridor receives its fair share of the available high-speed rail funds.”

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The decision also means the Northeast will be officially designated as one of the corridors in President Obama’s proposed national network of railways. The department initially had said the Northeast did not need the designation because it had already developed railways.

Applications for the $2.4 billion in rail money Florida rejected are being accepted until Apr. 4.

The Northeast joins 10 other areas of the country in competing for the money, including  California, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf Coast, New England and the Chicago hub.