TAMPA, Fla. — As a jazz band played, President Barack Obama Thursday told Floridians that they were due to get $1.25 billion to construct a high-speed train line between here and Orlando — a hefty share of an $8 billion pot of federal money to create jobs for the struggling American economy.
Obama's announcement coincided with word to 12 other locales across the country that Washington had decided to help finance a new age in train transportation.
The three other longest and most ambitious rail projects would connect San Diego to San Francisco, Chicago to St. Louis and Madison, Wis., to Milwaukee.
While the funds were substantial, most local officials note that completing the projects will cost far more than this initial federal contribution, and an announcement of the plan on the White House Web site indicates that the numbers aren't final.
Florida, for instance, originally asked for $2.5 billion for the 84-mile Tampa-Orlando project and another $30 million for an environmental impact study for an Orlando to Miami run. None of the Miami leg funding was approved by Washington.
Kevin Thibault, a senior Florida Department of Transportation official in charge of the high-speed project, is unable to say how much of the Tampa-Orlando route could be constructed with the new federal money, or when work would begin.
When Florida asked for the $2.5 billion, it told federal officials that contracts would be signed within months and construction would likely have begun by 2011. To connect Miami and Orlando is estimated to cost $8 billion.
Here's a breakdown of the high-speed projects:
California: A total of $2.344 billion will go to right of way acquisition and railway construction on the main corridor from San Diego to San Francisco. Phase 1 creates a 520-mile system connecting Anaheim and Los Angeles through the Central Valley to San Francisco by 2020. Phase 2, which would be completed by 2026, would extend the route north to Sacramento and south to San Diego. Trains would run at 220 mph. Ultimately, California expects to move 100 million passengers a year.
Oregon-Washington: The Seattle-Portland route gets $590 million to permit faster more reliable service along an existing route. Ultimately, planners expect to develop a high-speed corridor with 150 mph trains.
Midwest: Three projects ultimately connecting Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City; Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago and Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are getting $2.356 billion. About $1.1 billion will improve the Chicago and St. Louis corridor to permit trains to travel at 110 mph. Approximately $810 million will improve track and construct stations for a new intercity service between Milwaukee and Madison. A 250 mile route from Cleveland to Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati will get about $400 million for track upgrades. Trains are expected to travel at 79 mph.
A Pontiac to Detroit to Kalamazoo and Chicago route gets $244 million to renovate stations and improve track and signals. Ultimately, the number of daily round-trips would double and speeds eventually would increase to 110 mph.
Mid-Atlantic: A grant of $620 million will pay for 30 separate, interrelated projects between Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., to increase train speeds. New railcars and locomotives are part of the package. A future goal is to increase speeds on the Raleigh to Washington corridor to 110 mph and cut travel time by one-third.
Northeast: Five separate awards totaling $485 million will improve track, signaling, stations and infrastructure along train lines in Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. Another $706 million is being provided through Amtrak. The funds are designed to increase speeds to make more Northeast rail corridors an alternative to air and car travel.
(Sara Kennedy and Duane Marsteller of The Bradenton Herald and Alfonso Chardy and Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald contributed to this article.)
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