Under Armour's Plank backs maglev: 'Let's build this thing'

When Kevin Plank first rode a maglev, he couldn't suppress a giggle. Now he backs bringing it to Baltimore.

When he rode a high-speed, magnetic levitation train in Asia recently, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank couldn't suppress a giggle.

The athletic apparel magnate has joined the effort to bring the technology to Baltimore.

"Frankly, I love big," he told a crowd of more than 100 Monday night to mark the opening of the new Maglev headquarters downtown. "I have a passion: I love blowing people's minds."

Northeast Maglev hopes to build a magnetic levitation line that would shorten the trip between Baltimore and Washington to 15 minutes and eventually extend all the way to New York.

The first leg is estimated to cost $12 billion, but could be offset by the Japanese government and Central Japan Railway subsidizing about half the construction cost.

Plank, who sits on an advisory board for the project, made a plea to the political, business and other leaders gathered at the headquarters' opening reception.

"Let's build this thing. Let's get the red tape out of the way," he said. "This is a great project for the region, for the area, for the state, for the Northeast Corridor. Please do anything you can, tell anybody that will listen."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake compared the project to the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the country's first common carrier railroad, and said it makes sense for the city to pioneer maglev, too.

"We're ready," she said. "History shows that Baltimore innovates. The fact that we're here talking about this innovation in North America for maglev is history repeating itself. As transformational as the railroads were in our history, I think the maglev will be just as transformational, for Baltimore and our nation."

The maglev technology has been trying to get into America and the Northeast Corridor for decades but faced concerns about cost and disruption to neighborhoods.

Gov. Larry Hogan recently revived the push after riding a maglev train in Japan, calling it "an incredible experience" and pledging to apply for a $28 million federal grant to study a possible route between Baltimore and Washington.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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