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With Help From LaHood, Nelson Keeps Pushing High-Speed Train Project

Sen. Bill Nelson announced late Friday that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood informed him that the Obama administration is "formally reopening" the application process for the $2.4 billion in rail money rejected by Gov. Rick Scott.

In so doing, LaHood cleared a path for a transit group in Florida -- not the state government -- to go after the money, Nelson said.

In a news release, Nelson said, "Its possible for a new regional transit authority comprised of officials from cities along the future rail route -- Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami -- to compete against other states without Scotts support."

But, Nelson noted, the rail authority would have to do so in conjunction with Amtrak or another established transportation authority.

Unconscionably, the senator failed to mention the one remaining, immovable obstacle: the Scott administration. Since the state owns 90 percent of the right of way in the proposed rail corridor, the governor's approval would be needed before any local or regional agency could proceed with a bid. Hmmm, haven't we gone through all of this before?

Still, at least for public consumption, Nelson remained bullish about his latest Hail Mary pass.

"LaHood could have simply given Floridas money to someone else. Instead, he reopened the competition, keeping the door open to Florida rail backers at least until the April 4 deadline for applying," Nelson said.

Scott was not immediately available for comment.

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