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No Decision Yet on Rail

A Florida congressman told a Central Florida newspaper Friday that the state is among four finalists to receive federal stimulus money for high speed rail, but other officials said the statement may have been premature.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, told the Orlando Sentinel that the state was on a final list with California, Texas and the Chicago area to get federal dollars for rail projects – a key reason lawmakers in Tallahassee last week approved legislation to jump start local commuter rail.

But the Sentinel also quoted a U.S. Transportation official as saying that he hadn't seen any such list, and late Friday a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist told the News Service of Florida that the governor had not received any new information on the status of Florida's proposals.

The spokesman, Sterling Ivey, said Mica's comments appeared to have been premature.

Congress has approved $8 billion for high speed rail which Florida is trying to get a piece of, hoping to link several cities with new passenger trains. Last week, state lawmakers voted to approve a plan for the state to acquire tracks for the SunRail commuter train in central Florida and to put money into the struggling Tri-Rail system in South Florida. Backers said that bill would provide assurance to Washington that Florida was serious about rail.

Mica spoke with the Sentinel after a meeting in central Florida, and said an announcement would come in late January or early February.

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