Florida has one week to hold onto rail money

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Florida officials have about one week to make a deal keep the federal high-speed rail funds rejected yesterday by Governor Rick Scott. One idea is for another entity like Amtrak to receive the $2.4 billion with or without the Governor’s approval.

US Senator Bill Nelson says he has already met with a rail group in South Florida, Hillsborough’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, and US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, to consider other sources to receive funding for the bullet train.

Yesterday at the site of Tampa’s proposed high-speed rail terminal, four mayoral candidates criticized Governor Scott’s decision to reject the federal funding. Bob Buckhorn said he finds it amazing that a governor who wanted to create jobs is now in the “economy-devastating business.”

High-speed rail advocate and mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik said the governor’s decision cost Florida 25,000 jobs, and called it a very dark day for Tampa.

While the four candidates asked Scott to overturn his decision, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she respects his decision. Ferlita said she is considering other local transportation plans.

Tampa City Council Chair Thomas Scott, another mayoral candidate, also acknowledges the need for the Tampa Bay area to address local transportation plans, but he still hopes the governor will reverse his decision.

While many Florida officials are working to conceive a new partnership to accept the federal money, it may still require Governor Scott’s approval.

Jeanne Holton contributed to this report.

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