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Rejected Florida rail dollars offered up in bidding process

From Steve Kastenbaum, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Department of Transportation is offering the money in a bidding process
  • The merit of states' high-speed rail plans will determine where the money goes
  • Florida rejected the money, going to court to win a ruling allowing it to do so

(CNN) -- Days after Florida rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail system, the money is now being offered up to other states in a "merit-driven" competitive bidding process.

U.S. Transportation chief Ray LaHood announced Friday that he is making the money available to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors, according to an agency statement Friday.

"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 the statement.

The money is to be allocated as a part of a $53 billion infrastructure project that the Obama administration envisions will help connect 80 percent of Americans by rail within 25 years.

The bidding will be a "merit-driven process," the statement said, awarding money to projects that can deliver sustained public and economic benefits while demonstrating reduced energy consumption.

Friday's announcement was made possible after a Florida Supreme Court ruling allowed Republican Gov. Rick Scott to reject the federal money.

The court decision cleared the way for Scott's administration to focus on projects other than high-speed rail, said governor's office spokesman Brian Burgess.

The governor had consistently opposed the rail plans, citing expected cost overruns and long-term operating costs for an 84-mile-long high-speed rail line that would link Tampa and Orlando.

Applications from states for the money are due April 4.