Ray LaHood, U.S. transportation secretary, speaks in New York about the… (Jin Lee / Bloomberg )
Reporting from Washington and Los Angeles — California, Illinois and 13 other states, along with Amtrak, will share $2 billion in federal grants aimed at developing high-speed rail service, money that had been rejected by Florida, officials announced on Monday.
The grants were announced by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. The winners were chosen from among 100 applications by 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak.
"The investments we're making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities," LaHood stated.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected the more than $2 billion in federal aid for a high-speed link connecting Tampa and Orlando. He argued that the project was unneeded and that traffic did not justify that type of investment. He also maintained that the project would eventually end up costing Florida taxpayers more than $3 billion, which the state could ill afford.
Scott joined two other newly elected Republican governors, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in rejecting high-speed rail funds. The Obama administration, led by Vice President Joe Biden, has made high-speed rail one of its priorities.
"Earlier this year, President Obama and I made a commitment to improve and expand America's transportation system, including the development of a modern, national high-speed rail network," said Biden, a longtime rail advocate and commuter from his home in Delaware to Washington. "And today, we're announcing investments that will continue our progress toward making this vision a reality. These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and rail cars."
Of Monday's awards, Amtrak, the nation's passenger rail service, will receive $795 million for work on the northeast corridor that links Washington through New York to Boston. More than $400 million will go to high-speed service in the Midwest, including a Chicago-Detroit connection, and $300 million is directed at advancing the San Francisco-Los Angeles link.
Almost $3.5 billion in federal funds has now been committed for the California high-speed train project -- the first segment of which is planned for the Central Valley. Combined with state matching funds, rail officials say the state will have $6.33 billion to invest in the line.
California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer praised the award. In February the senators urged LaHood to send their state the money Florida had rejected.
"This is great news for Californians, who have already made strong financial commitments to infrastructure projects," Feinstein said. "I applaud Secretary LaHood for responding to our request and allowing the state of California to utilize these funds to advance high-speed rail. No other state is as ready and able to lead the way in demonstrating the viability of high-speed rail. In addition, these funds will support thousands of new manufacturing, construction, and technology jobs in California."
"I'm thrilled at this latest investment in California's high-speed rail system, which will create thousands of jobs and help us build a cleaner and more efficient transportation system to move people all across our state," Boxer said. "Secretary LaHood's decision recognizes the commitment California voters have made to making our state a model for high-speed rail in America."
The grant will be awarded to the California High Speed Rail Authority to extend the current proposed Central Valley route an additional 20 miles, they said.
The Central Valley route would eventually provide 220 mph high-speed rail service from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The work funded in this round will extend the track and civil work from Fresno to the “Wye” junction, which will provide a connection to San Jose to the West and Merced to the north, according to the federal Department of Transportation.
A separate grant of $68 million will be used for 15 high-performance passenger rail cars and four quick-acceleration locomotives for the Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin, and Capitol corridors in California, the DOT stated.
The Chicago to St. Louis corridor will get $186.3 million to construct upgrades between Dwight and Joliet, Ill., with trains operating at 110 mph for more than 220 miles of track. "This investment will reduce trip times, enhance safety and add more seats on the corridor, increasing the number of people who can conveniently travel by train," the DOT stated.
Another $268.2 million will be used to purchase 48 high-performance passenger cars and seven quick acceleration locomotives for eight corridors in the Midwest, the agency said.
Simon reported from Washington and Muskal reported from Los Angeles.
Times staff writer Dan Weikel contributed to this report