Laurel City Council says no to maglev train

Possible routes for a proposed high-speed maglev train that would travel between Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New York City, have been narrowed down from six proposed last fall to two – either west or east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

While the east route would travel through parts of Fort Meade and the campuses of the NSA and NASA, the west route travels through parts of Montpelier Hills and South Laurel, concerning residents and local politicians.

On Monday, Feb. 26, Laurel City Council passed a resolution opposing the train.

“Communities would be disrupted and houses taken,” Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said, on Tuesday. “There are no benefits we get out of it. “

District 1 Councilwoman Mary Lehman has been vocal in her opposition to the proposed project and has been working to keep the community informed.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, Lehman held a community meeting that brought together experts on the Maglev project, community leaders, and the public to “ask tough questions.”

Traveling at speeds over 300 miles per hour, the maglev runs on magnetic forces between superconducting magnets located on board the trains and coils that are installed in the walls of the guideway, so rather than traveling on rails, the trains levitate, according to information by Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, overseers of the project for the Maryland Transit Administration.

“These are not your typical trains,” said David Henley, project director of BWRR. “You can go from zero miles per hour to 311 miles per hour in two minutes and you don’t feel it.”

There would be only three stops – one in Washington, D.C., one at BWI Airport and one in Baltimore. Travel time between from D.C. and Baltimore would be 15 minutes. To travel from D.C. to New York City would take only an hour.

Dennis Brady, leader of Citizens Against SC Maglev, questioned how many jobs the maglev project would really bring to the area as well as safety issues and noise levels. He also asked if there had been any studies for reasonable alternatives, like Amtrack.

The new system would help relieve traffic on congested highways as well as alleviate stress on old infrastructures, Henley said. Environmental benefits include better air quality with fewer cars burning fuel and emissions.

As for noise issues, 75 percent of the maglev’s path would run 80 to 100 feet underground, Henley said.

“You would not hear it,” Henley said.

Estimated to cost between $10 billion to $15 billion to build, a combination of federal and other sources will be used to finance it. Those in attendance on Saturday expressed concern about future costs, including maintenance and operational costs, if ridership numbers were down.

“Is it a financially viable system?” a citizen asked.

Moe supports looking at the transportation systems already in place.

“The money would be better used for our current transit services and infrastructures that are sorely in need of funds,” Moe said.

How the maglev affects property values is hard to predict, according to Daniel R. Puma Jr., supervisor of assessments for Prince George’s County. He advised those in attendance to study the market and look at what else is going on in the area, adding that it could be “tough to isolate things like the maglev” for fluctuations in value.

“There are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed,” said Sen. Victor Ramierz. “There are some real concerns… about home and property values. I am glad the community can come out here and express their concerns.”

As battalion chief for Prince George’s Fire Department, Eric Reith said the department has no opinion on whether to build the train or not. Their first concern is safety and Reith expressed concern about the distance of two miles between vents in the Maglev’s underground system. Henley assured Reith that the company would work closely with local emergency and fire departments to make things safe.

“This was really good,” Lehman said afterwards. “To get both perspectives is important.”

People are encouraged to send written comments to SMAGELV Project, c/o Suhair Al Khatib, Maryland Transit Administration, 6 Saint Paul ST., Baltimore, 21202.

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