Anne Arundel school board opposes superconducting maglev train routes

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education on Wednesday approved a position statement that opposes any Baltimore-Washington superconducting maglev route “that is disruptive to our schools and surrounding communities.”

The $10 billion, high-speed train, proposed by Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, would shorten the trip between the cities to 15 minutes.

Proposed routes for the maglev train cross four county elementary schools — Ridgeway, Overlook, Hebron-Harman and Linthicum, according to the statement from Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Those schools have more than 2,200 students in total.

The maglev poses a potentially significant environmental threat to students and teachers, and communities could suffer severe and possibly irreversible impacts from the transit system, which would “offer little in the way of local benefit,” officials said in the statement.

“While underground routes may result in less direct damage to property and potentially eliminate the need to relocate schools, they do not eradicate this concern entirely,” school board officials said.

Easements might be required for emergency exits and the underground routes still pose potential noise, vibration and safety issues, officials said.

Kisha Brown, director of community and external affairs for Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, said her company plans on addressing the concerns mentioned by the board in its statement.

The federal government has awarded $27.8 million for an environmental review, she said, which is expected to be completed by summer 2019.

But they’re still very early in the environmental study process, Brown told the board Wednesday, and they believe the board’s concerns will be addressed through that process.

Then once a final route is selected, it will be scrutinized by state and federal agencies, she said.

She said her company is confident that there won’t be any perceptible vibrations above ground at the schools along the train’s path.

Board member Eric Grannon did not vote in favor of the statement — he felt the board should only act once a route for the train has been finalized. Other members said it is important to let their concerns be heard now.

While the county school board expressed its opposition to any route it finds disruptive to schools and surrounding communities Wednesday, the same day officials from the North American Building Trades Unions and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland expressed support for the high-speed train.

If it is built, the project will use union labor for construction and the unions’ two dozen training centers in the Baltimore-Washington area to prepare new workers for apprenticeships, according to a memorandum of understanding between the unions and Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail.

In return, North American Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey pledged “our full, unmitigated support in the regulatory, legislative, political (process) and, at the end of the day, the finest, most productive workforce in the world to make this project a reality.”

Del. Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore, chairwoman of the black caucus, emphasized the potential economic benefits for the state in her endorsement of the project. She stood with other members of the caucus during the announcement Wednesday.

“Most important is the fact that there will be 1,500 people who will be permanently employed by these companies when this train service is complete,” Glenn said to applause.

Dennis Brady, a former Bowie city councilman who heads an opposition group called Citizens Against This SCMaglev, said he wasn’t surprised by the unions and the Baltimore politicians supporting the project. Dozens of group members protested the project at several public open houses last month, and Brady attended Wednesday’s news conference.

“We still believe that it is not an economically viable proposal,” Brady said.

“I think they’re trying to reestablish some momentum coming out of what was a very negative round of open houses from a public-input standpoint.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this story.

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