Potential Baltimore maglev station locations narrowed; Port Covington out of the running

Federal regulators considering the proposed magnetic levitation or “maglev” train between Washington and Baltimore — which backers say could cut travel between the two cities to 15 minutes — have narrowed the list of potential station locations in both cities.

In Baltimore, a potential station in Port Covington is no longer being considered, while an underground station near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and an above-ground station in Cherry Hill, near Westport, remain in the running.

The station near Camden Yards would benefit from its central location, but its construction could require the demolition of several buildings and disrupt traffic temporarily, the report found. A station in Cherry Hill would be substantially cheaper, but riders would have to catch shuttles or light rail trains to get to downtown — potentially doubling their travel time from Washington, it found.

READ MORE: Futuristic Japanese maglev train could revolutionize travel from DC to Baltimore, and beyond »

The proposed train line, which also would stop at BWI Marshall airport, is backed by Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail, or BWRR, a local railroad company formed to operate the maglev were it built.

The company says its technology, which was developed by the Japanese government and the private Central Japan Railway Co., could transport travelers between Washington and Baltimore in 15 minutes — and eventually from Washington to New York in an hour.

Building the first leg of maglev between Washington and Baltimore would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, and could be paid for through a mix of Japanese loans, U.S. federal grants and loans, and private investment, the company said. Fares would be competitive with those for Amtrak’s Acela service, the company said.

Wayne Rogers, chairman and CEO of BWRR, said a major takeaway of the report is that “the project continues to proceed forward, incorporating at each step the comments of agencies and the public.”

“Residents should feel good that their comments are being both reviewed and, if appropriate, incorporated,” he said.

The new report, published online Thursday, is the latest to provide input on the project from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation, which are overseeing a $28 million federal review of the proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The report found that the proposed underground station near Camden Yards would be near transit connections and parking garages, in a downtown location and accessible by local highways. But it acknowledged that building the station wouldn’t be easy.

“A station location in Camden Yards is in an area with heavy traffic and would require temporary traffic disruptions during construction,” the report found. “The proposed station alignment does not follow the street grid; therefore if top-down construction were selected, then several buildings (over the span of approximately three blocks) would be demolished.”

The report also found that construction of a “deep underground station and its approach tunnel” in the area “would require temporary or permanent underpinning support” for M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Convention Center and other buildings and pieces of highway infrastructure.

It also found that there would be “a potential adverse effect” on the Old Otterbein United Methodist Church, an historic landmark near Camden Yards.

The report also found an above-ground station near the light rail station in Cherry Hill would be in an existing transit-oriented development zone with “redevelopment potential,” and accessible to the highway system. It also found that building such a station would cost $1.4 billion less than building the underground station near Camden Yards.

The site is 2.5 miles from downtown, and the report estimated shuttles could be provided to get people who arrive at the Cherry Hill station into downtown within 18 minutes — making that connection more time-consuming than the entire maglev trip from Washington. Travelers also could take light rail trains, which arrive about every 15 minutes and take 7 to 8 minutes to get downtown, the report found.

The report said underground stations considered in the Westport-Cherry Hill area were not viable, and removed them from consideration along with a potential underground station near Charles and Light streets.

Port Covington was removed as an option as well, in part because other development is moving forward in the area and expected to be completed by 2020.

Beyond Baltimore, the new report also narrowed the list of potential station locations in Washington, to two, both in the Mount Vernon Square area downtown. It vetoed a location in the city’s NoMa neighborhood.

The Baltimore Sun published an extensive look at the project proposal and a related project in Japan last month.

The new report is not the last step in the review process.

A draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to identify a preferred route next year. The public will have an opportunity to comment. The FRA is expected to issue a final report saying whether the line should be built by 2020.

krector@baltsun.com

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