The campaign to bring the magnetic levitation railway train, known in transportation circles as the Northeast Maglev, to the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, continues.
A Federal Railroad Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is expected to be released Jan. 22 opening a round of commentary and debate for the $10 billion Baltimore-Washington Super Conducting (or SC) Maglev Project.
According to Northeast Maglev, there are 12 different routes under consideration for the Baltimore-Washington segment, including a no build option. Other Baltimore stops could include Downtown and Cherry Hill.
While acknowledging that COVID-19 “has created unprecedented challenges that will be felt for years to come,” said Chairman and CEO Wayne Rogers. “With those challenges comes an incredible opportunity to invest in bold projects that go beyond the status quo and put us on a sustainable and efficient path forward.”
The Northeast Maglev is a project, said Rogers, “that will rely on proven technology to build a 311-mph superconducting maglev train that complements existing networks and re-energizes the aging Northeast corridor. As the economic ramifications live on well past the virus, the project will play a key role in helping our economy get back on track – creating 74,000 construction jobs, 1,500 permanent jobs and providing a shot in the arm to the state’s Gross Domestic Product.”
It would also change the lives of millions of people in the Baltimore-Washington area “as we recapture the 102 hours per year wasted in traffic. The effort to build the project,” he said, “continues full force.”
As for those commuters who have sat in their cars for those 102 hours per year, “Many are returning to their daily commutes already, and when SCMAGLEV service begins from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore with a stop at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, our project aims to eliminate millions of automobile trips each year. That means reduced commute times and unlocked career opportunities, providing better access to jobs and to job centers.”
As has been seen in recent months, Rogers continued, taking cars off the road “also means less toxic emissions, improved air quality and continued strides in the fight against climate change.”
“For those who did drive, many never knew how much our poor infrastructure was costing us,” he said. “While COVID-19 has temporarily changed the way we live and work, population in our area continues to increase and with it, demands on our infrastructure.”
As for the economy, he said “We anticipate the economy will adjust and while there may be some people continuing post-pandemic to work from home, the majority will return to their jobs. Climate change is becoming an ever-present problem. We are laser-focused on the world we can create for ourselves. We want to not return to normal, but to return to better.”
The word also continues in the affirmative from Jack McDougle, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “We are very excited about the SCMaglev Project. In addition to allowing residents and visitors to travel between D.C. and BWI [Marshall] in just 15 minutes, we expect the project to create thousands of jobs and boost our regional Gross Domestic Product.
“The project is also the first step towards a longer-term goal of connecting D.C. and New York, with travel times estimated at under an hour,” McDougle said. “The project has obvious, practical benefits for our region, but it also signals a desire to lead the world in transportation technology, which we fully endorse.”
The reaction from community members and others, of course, is the opposite, with multiple concerns about the cost to build the SCMaglev, as well as ride it and the time it would take to build it, among others.
“Most of our community is opposed to it,” said Dan Woomer of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association. “I think you’ll find that most communities are against it.”
That’s much to do with the economic angle. “It won’t generate enough revenue to operate here because Baltimore doesn’t have the economic base to support it,” said Woomer. “To make money it has to go to Philadelphia and New York. Some people think Baltimore should be bypassed.”
While acknowledging that the SCMaglev is an interesting technology, he said “there are rail trains in Europe that are faster. Though Maglev is three times as fast as the MARC train, it’s also five times the cost; it will be $50 a trip, instead of $10 for the MARC.”
Bill Boone, a board member of Citizens Against The SCMaglev, is concerned about its financial feasibility, as well as how many people will be working from home after the pandemic dissipates.
“I think we’re still back to the basics of [Northeast Maglev] not having proven the need for or the financial feasibility of this project,” said Boone. “We’ve been asking for ridership numbers for three years. Also, bear in mind that this is not mass transmit for any metro area. With one stop in each city, few people would use it. And it won’t move cars off of the local roads; upgrading infrastructure would accomplish that.”
Another observer who questions the need for the SCMaglev is Anne Arundel County Councilmember Sarah Lacey, who represents District 1. “I don’t think there has been any significant shift of public opinion in Linthicum,” she said. “The Maglev does not propose enough benefit to the community to offset the heavy burdens it would be forced to bear.
“Indeed, with the increased acceptance of telework,” she said, “one wonders why the Maglev would ever benefit enough riders to pay for itself.”
For now, the public will soon be able to comment throughout the EIS process at http://bwmaglev.info. The official Draft EIS is slated to be released to the public in winter/spring 2021.
By Mark Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | November 2020 Issue