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‘Transformative public transportation’: Baltimore-area chambers of commerce endorse Northeast Maglev

A venture to build a high-speed rail line between Washington and Baltimore opened a new headquarters Monday in downtown Baltimore.

Four Baltimore-area chambers of commerce have endorsed the proposal to build a $10 billion high-speed maglev train route between Baltimore and Washington.

The Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Northern Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County chambers of commerce announced their support for the project Wednesday, saying it would benefit the more than 1,500 businesses and other entities they represent in the region where the first 36-mile leg of the train would be built.

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With stops in Baltimore, at BWI Marshall Airport and in Washington, the Japanese superconducting magnetic levitation train would shorten the trip between the two cities to 15 minutes. Officials hope to later extend the line to New York, creating an hour-long trip between the nation’s capital and its largest city.

The project’s potential economic impact is comparable to that of the B&O Railroad, “a transformative public transportation infrastructure initiative that benefited companies, communities and citizens of its day and beyond,” said Wayne Rogers, CEO of the Northeast Maglev, the company seeking to build it.

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MTA is investigating a possible maglev train for Baltimore-D.C.

“The SCMAGLEV project will begin in Maryland and make our great state stronger and more competitive,” Rogers said in a statement. "We are thrilled to partner with these four chambers of commerce based on the abundance of local business opportunities the project will create and the new businesses it will attract to the region.”

However, opponents of the project say the proposal vastly underestimates costs and overstates benefits, arguing the maglev train would do nothing to improve the clogged highways and dysfunctional mass transit systems that most central Maryland residents rely on. And some communities along the proposed route say the maglev line will disrupt their neighborhoods without stopping or providing any local benefits.

The first leg of the project is under review by federal, state and local agencies, and a draft environmental impact statement is expected to be completed in early 2020 after a short delay, said Alex Jackson, a spokesman for the Northeast Maglev.

Funding remains uncertain. But construction could begin as soon as 2021 if the project receives the required approvals, the company said.

The maglev train would bring jobs and business opportunities both during and after construction, said William Honablew Jr., executive director of the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce, which represents 250 members.

“We are proud to be one of the local business partners working to turn Northeast Maglev’s grand vision into a reality," Honablew said in a statement. “And we are excited this project is led by a company headquartered in Baltimore, the hometown of former industry titan B&O Railroad.”

Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Howard noted that the train would help small businesses as well as larger regional companies by better connecting the region. The county chamber represents 450 members.

The maglev “will provide a big boost for expanded transportation and business opportunities at a time when congestion is getting worse,” Howard said in a statement.

The project would serve as a “win-win” for the area’s businesses and residents, said Tom Balsamo, president of the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, which represents nearly 400 business and civic groups in Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Linthicum, Brooklyn Park, Hanover and Severn.

Opponents of a proposed magnetic levitation train in Maryland say it would make their communities less safe and less desirable places to live, and worry about a range of impacts from noise to vibration to electromagnetic forces.

“In Northern Anne Arundel County, we know firsthand the importance of efficient and reliable transportation,” Balsamo said in a statement.

The project stands to reduce the dependence on cars in the second-most congested area in the nation, said David C. Harrington, president and CEO of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, an alliance of more than 600 businesses representing 250,000 employees in the greater Washington area.

“This project is a much-needed transportation option offering an economically compelling opportunity to change the county and Northeast Corridor in a fundamental way,” Harrington said in a statement.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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