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States vie for chunk of federal funding for high-speed rail

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden suggested Wednesday that Florida stands a good chance of securing some of the $8 billion the administration has set aside to develop what it calls a "world-class" high-speed passenger rail system.

"Florida is in the mix," Biden told reporters on a conference call. "It is still in play."

But the state faces fierce competition from other states, not the least from California, which has been planning a high-speed line from Los Angeles to San Francisco for years. California voters have already approved $9 billion in bond financing to get the project started.

Florida has sought a high-speed rail system since at least the 1970s. In the 1990s, the state came close to building a $6.3-billion, 200-mph rail line from Miami to Orlando and Tampa. But the project was derailed when then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999 refused to spend any additional money on the project.

At the time, bullet-train advocates said a Florida high-speed rail project would compete successfully with regional airlines and Florida's Turnpike.

Biden outlined two possible Florida routes where high-speed rail could be built and sustained: one from Miami to Tampa via Orlando, the other from Miami to Jacksonville via Orlando.

"They are sustainable, assuming the state wants to get into the game . . . because there's existing systems there and they parallel some of (Interstate) 95," Biden said.

His remarks came as governors and transportation officials from 23 states interested in securing high-speed rail dollars met at the White House with Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.


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