15 states get $2B in rejected rail funds

Most of the $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail money that was rejected by Florida had been divvied up among 15 states, Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood announced Monday.

LaHood said that he was awarding $2.02 billion to 22 projects in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. California also received funds.

The biggest winners were in the Northeast rail corridor, which will get $795 million. Projects in the Midwest, including a Chicago-to-St. Louis Railway, will get a total of $404.1 million with $186 million going to the Chicago-St. Louis line. California will get $300 million to add 20 miles to its proposed Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line.

Twenty-four states applied for the money that had been earmarked for a rail line to connect Tampa and Orlando. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) rejected the funds, so LaHood opened up the money to other states.

LaHood said the projects would create jobs in the states that received the funds.

“President Obama and Vice President Biden’s vision for a national rail system will help ensure America is equipped to win the future with the fastest, safest and most efficient transportation network in the world,” he said in a statement.   “The investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities.”

The announcements come after lawmakers cut $1.5 billion in high-speed rail funding in the 2011 budget when they reached a deal to avert a government shutdown. They also eliminated $400 million from last year's spending plan. However, the $2.4 billion originally awarded to Florida was included in the 2009 economic stimulus package.