Northeast Maglev line could tunnel under Lansdowne, Baltimore Highlands

A proposed high-speed maglev rail line connecting Baltimore and Washington, D.C., could run under Lansdowne and Baltimore Highlands, according to maps posted on the project website.

Three routes under consideration run near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. All three routes touch Baltimore Highlands, and one route runs through Lansdowne as well.

The routes being considered would be in tunnels 80 to 100 feet underground in Baltimore County, Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail project director David Henley said.

Stations would be built in Baltimore, Washington and at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. At least 70 percent of the train line will be underground, Henley said.

The Maryland Department of Transportation is in the first year of a three-year environmental impact study funded by the federal government to determine how each route would affect the region, Henley said.

Maryland Transit Administration spokesman Paul Shepard declined to set up an interview with those involved in the maglev study, saying in an email that “we are far too early on the process to discuss community impacts at this point.”

If the project receives a green light, Henley said Northeast Maglev could start construction as early as 2019 or 2020.

Henley estimated the $10 billion to $12 billion project, which he said will be funded by low-interest loans from the Federal Railroad Administration or a bank in Japan, could be complete by 2027.

The proposed superconducting maglev, or magnetic levitation, line is based on technology developed in Japan. Maglev trains hover between a guideway made up of powerful magnets which propel it forward. An experimental maglev train in Yamanashi, Japan won a Guinness World Record when it hit 374.68 mph in 2015.

The train, Henley said, could get from Baltimore to Washington in 15 minutes, a trip that now takes about an hour by traditional rail or by car.

The maglev project has already run into controversy. Earlier this month, the Anne Arundel County school board voted to oppose any route “that is disruptive to our schools and surrounding communities.” The proposed routes cross four of the county’s elementary schools.

In Baltimore County, the maglev line would not cross school properties directly.

Henley said the company plans to bore tunnels rather than excavating, a process that would take place mostly underground. He said communities on the train’s path could see signs of construction above ground, including shafts and ventilation.

Neighborhoods could experience some construction noise or vibrations, Henley said, but he said the train itself would not create vibrations because it has no moving parts.

“People won’t know it’s there,” he said.

The company, Henley said, will work with property owners to get easement rights in areas where the land is not government-owned, and could get what he called “fair and reasonable remuneration.”

The Baltimore-Washington corridor is the first step for company Northeast Maglev, which aspires to build a high-speed line stretching from Washington to New York City, shrinking the travel time between the two cities to an hour. Today, an express train from Washington to New York takes close to three hours; a bus or car takes four.

Because the train will not open for at least 10 years, Henley said exact pricing is unavailable, but that ticket prices will be competitive to similar routes such as Amtrak’s Acela Express line.

Henley said that the company does not expect to directly compete with existing trains such as Amtrak.

“But we will be stealing people out of their cars to ride our train,” Henley said. “And we think that’s a good thing.”

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