Florida high-speed rail project needs $300 million more to start

Florida on Monday got the news it will receive an additional $800 million from the federal government to build a bullet train line from Tampa to Orlando -- but the grant is $300 million short of the amount the state needs to start construction.

Though Florida did not get the full amount it sought, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., praised the $808 million grants.

``This is fantastic news for Florida,'' Nelson said in a statement. ``This will ensure the state remains full speed ahead with high-speed rail construction.''

Last year Florida requested $2.5 billion to build the segment, but when President Obama traveled to Tampa in January he only gave Florida $1.21 billion, an amount federal officials described as a down payment. Earlier this year Florida asked for $1.1 billion more, the balance of construction funds.

But instead of giving Florida the money it needs, the federal government gave it yet another installment.

Nelson said the federal government may provide the final $300 million next year.

While building a Tampa-Orlando track would be a coup for Florida, experts say the project will be viable only if the track is extended to Miami because the bulk of potential passengers are in South Florida.

These include international visitors whose trips begin in Miami and residents of densely populated urban centers like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Originally, the Florida Department of Transportation asked the Federal Railroad Administration for $30 million to finance an Orlando-Miami extension study.

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