State to get only a dribble of high-speed rail money

The White House sent an announcement of the grants Wednesday evening before the president mentioned his support for high-speed rail in his State of the Union address.

Georgia high-speed rail advocates were despondent Wednesday, fearing Georgia would get little or none of the money because it has lagged on rail development while other states have invested.

More than $80 million in federal funds for a commuter rail line south of Atlanta have sat idle for years.

The money to be announced today would pay for three feasibility studies, at $250,000 each.

“This is pitiful,” said U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).

Other states are expected to get grants to actually build rail lines.

The studies would see if it is feasible to build lines from Atlanta to Birmingham and from Macon to Jacksonville, and study a compact for a rail line connecting Chicago, Louisville, Nashville and Atlanta.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were scheduled to detail the grants in an event in Florida today, virtually confirming that Florida was a significant winner.

Last fall, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a number of states, including Georgia and Florida, that they had better get their act together on rail transit or risk losing out on the high-speed rail grants.

In a special session weeks later, Florida voted additional annual funding for one transit rail line and expedited buying track for another.

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