Senators To Florida: You Gonna Eat Those HSR Funds?

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(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Have you ever been out to a restaurant with a group of people and one person didn't quite finish their entree? Whenever this happens, I'm usually the first to broach that eternal question, "You gonna eat that?"

I realize in some circles this is interpreted as uncouth behavior. I ask the question not to offend, but simply as a means to distribute a meal more efficiently. In other words, if you're not going to eat it, I will.

And I'm not the only one who holds these controversial views. Ten Democratic Senators from the northeast sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday asking that $2.4 million in high speed rail funds semi-rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) be redirected to their states. In other words, if Florida won't eat it, they will.

Full text of the letter after the jump...

February 25, 2011

The Honorable Ray LaHood


U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood,

In light of the State of Florida's decision to reject $2.4 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funds, we urge you to reprogram these funds to projects on the Northeast Corridor.  Our states are ready to put these funds to good use to improve our existing high speed rail service, reduce congestion, and create jobs.

As you know, the Northeast Corridor is critically important to our nation's transportation infrastructure.  The region served by the Corridor accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation's gross domestic product and twenty percent of our nation's population.  More than 250 million rail passengers use the Corridor annually and the Acela Express has built the foundation for high-speed rail service throughout the country.  In a recent report, America 2050 rated the Northeast Corridor as the region with the greatest potential to attract high-speed rail ridership in the United States.

Improving passenger rail service on the Northeast Corridor is necessary to accommodate the sixty percent increase in passengers expected by 2030 and will alleviate severe congestion on the region's highways and airspace.  At a time when numerous states have rejected federal funding from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, we note that high-speed rail's potential on the Northeast Corridor is proven.  For example, ridership on the Acela Express has risen six hundred percent during its nine years of service.

Although the Northeast Corridor has the only operating high-speed train in the country, the Corridor has received less than two percent of the $10.5 billion provided by Congress for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program to date.   We believe that this is an insufficient investment in the Northeast Corridor, given our region's position as a population and economic mega-region.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Tom Carper

Benjamin L. Cardin

Barbara A. Mikulski

John F. Kerry

Joseph I. Lieberman

Richard Blumenthal

Kirsten E. Gillibrand

Frank R. Lautenberg

Robert Menendez

Christopher A. Coons