The Maglev Train is a proposed high-tech superconducting magnetic levitation train service that would provide public transportation between Baltimore and Washington. The Federal Railroad Administrator anticipates that the high-speed train will reduce congestion on the I-95 corridor and therefore reduce accidents. If constructed, the train system will transport passengers between the two locations in a revolutionary time. It will be made of a single tunnel that is 43 feet in diameter constructed 170 feet below ground. The train is also expected to reach speeds of up to 375 mph traveling on a U-shaped guideway similar to the company’s existing railway in Japan. Northeast Maglev, the company behind the project, has already secured $5 billion in funding to see the Maglev train take over rail service between the two cities. This may reduce stress on the region’s aging infrastructure and saturated highways as well as the Baltimore Washington parkway. Overall, the train service might provide a high-quality ride with systems that detect any underperformance.
Proponents of the Maglev project argue that it will be a viable investment by both the federal and Maryland governments. Specifically, they anticipate that its construction will generate thousands of jobs over a seven-year period which, will in turn, inject an additional $10 billion into the local economy. Overall, the project is positioned to supplement other transportation; and as a result, commuters will be able to maintain frequent and timely services with easy scheduling that avoids delays.
The project has faced its most robust opposition from some elected officials and residents, particularly those of Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. Critics argue that laying out the train on the proposed route would have significant detrimental impact on the local economies and the environment. They also see the construction as being at their expense given that the train will not stop in their area. There is also concern that having a train tunnel running under the existing infrastructure will cause structural instability on neighborhoods due to excessive vibrations. The most significant concern is in the cities of Bladensburg, Greenbelt, Laurel, and Linthicum. Residents along the edge of the Baltimore Washington Parkway also cite encroachment by the system. They argue that having the railroad pass on the edge of Patuxent Research Refuge would be in contravention laws protecting federal lands.
Additionally, there are concerns over the disruptions associated with large-scale construction. Business revenues are expected to suffer negatively due to resulting traffic delays and lane closures. A reduction in the number of consumers willing to patronize business with limited accessibility would undoubtedly create a significant strain on businesses, at least temporarily. In addition, according to a federal analysis, the cost of riding the Maglev would be more expensive than taking the Amtrak or MARC train. Grass-root activists portray the project as a vehicle for the rich and a limousine service for lobbyists travelling to downtown DC. Overall, the project faces stiff competition and roadblocks from the different rail transit services already in operation.
Northeast Maglev is still in the process of seeking funding, primarily from government sources. If obtained this is expected to offset operational costs which they hope will reduce the price point of train tickets. Additionally, benchmarking is needed to identify the different problems that may occur throughout the different management levels. Worksite job safety is another area that has yet to receive due analysis. It remains to be seen whether the project will acquire the necessary federal approval in order to make to the projected start date of early 2030.
Current trends indicate that car accidents in the region will increase due to vehicle congestion. The Maglev has the potential to bring positive impact on road safety. That being said, the concerns of Prince George’s County and Baltimore City residents should be taken to account. The two proposed plans will clearly have a negative impact on existing infrastructure and a detrimental effect on the businesses where construction will occur. I believe the clearest positive impact could be on the Baltimore City economy. The Maglev would create jobs, increased tourism, growth downtown and an influx of new residents who will live in Baltimore and commute to DC. If brought to fruition, the Maglev would undoubtedly strengthen the link between the two regions and might even out some of the economic disparity between the two cities.