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Public comment on proposed maglev train routes from Washington to Baltimore open for residents until April 22

Residents have a chance to voice concerns over a draft study for a superconducting magnetic levitation train proposed to run from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore with a stop at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the maglev high-speed train, which outlines two possible routes for the project and an analysis of each, is now available for public review and comment. The deadline for public comments on the draft has been extended to April 22.

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After taking into account comments received on the draft, the Federal Railroad Administration will prepare a final report that will include responses to comments. Upon completion, the administration expects to choose the best option after considering public comment and environmental impact.

Alex Jackson, director of Marketing and Communications for developer Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, said financing will come from a mix of sources. Japan has already agreed in principle to finance half of the Baltimore-Washington cost. The remainder of funding will come from U.S. government loan and grant programs, and the private sector.

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There are plans to later connect Baltimore to New York, according to Northeast Maglev, which Jackson also works for. The draft study does not look at the second leg.

For the Baltimore-Washington maglev, the Federal Railroad Administration is still considering two paths, which run along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and a “no-build option.” Each alignment, one on the west side of the highway and one on the east side, has six possible variations.

A map from Arcgis depicting the different alternatives that are still being considered for the maglev train. Click on the legend to see the different options. Map from ArcGis user leah.visakowitz.

Developer Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail favors one of the routes, labeled J-03 in the report, that would run along the east side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, with a trainset maintenance facility at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center West. This option would have stations at Mount Vernon Square in D.C., BWI Airport and Cherry Hill in Baltimore.

In addition to the parkway, depending on the variation, the route could also go through Fort George G. Meade and the Patuxent Research Refuge, according to the report. Tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay — Patuxent River, Little Patuxent River, Anacostia River, and Beaverdam Creek — could also be impacted.

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“Each one of these alternatives has different potential impacts because they are going in different areas,” Jackson said.

National Park Services, which owns the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, didn’t respond for comment before publication.

As a member of Friends of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and Patuxent Research Refuge, Marcia Watson has been following this project for the last four years. Watson has concerns about the trainset maintenance facilities, which she says would have a lasting impact because natural habitat would be lost.

Whether the train is built on the west or east side of the parkway, the maintenance facilities could be built at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Airstrip, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center West or redesigned MD 198.

“They will impact federal lands in Prince George’s County and many other federal lands. There are county parks and municipal parks along the route of the train in the county that will be affected,” Watson said.

This project is supported by Prince George’s County and Baltimore County’s Chamber of Commerce, NAACP Maryland State Conference and Cherry Hill Development Corporation, according to the Northeast Maglev website.

The train being built by Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, a private company, is also a concern for Watson.

“Our federal lands would be taken away in order to serve a private corporation. That creates a dangerous precedent that we could lose public lands in the future,” Watson said.

Jackson said Beltsville Agricultural Research Center has multiple other buildings that aren’t agriculture related, including Secret Service training land, NASA buildings, CIA and NSA buildings.

BWRR intentionally is going through federal land instead of residential and commercial land because they are committed to not taking any homes, Jackson said. He also said federal land has a lot more open space.

“Once we narrow the routes down we will be able to educate people more and we will know the steps to take to mitigate any impacts made,” Jackson said.

Sam Droege is a biologist and lifelong Prince George’s County resident and compares this train project to cutting off a person’s hand.

“You have a place where you can build a 200-acre industrial site in the middle of conservation land but that is ruined land and you can’t get that back,” Droege said.

Droege compares it to Takoma Park, Langley Park and College Park and said that those areas were habitats back in the day.

Biologically, there are zero benefits from this project, Droege said. “It is massively impactful in a negative way,” he said.

Droege calls this train one for the rich, the average person won’t be able to afford it. Residents in Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County won’t use it since stops are planned only in Washington, D.C., BWI Airport and Baltimore, he said.

Jackson said BWRR ticket prices will range from less than a dollar per mile to $2 per mile. At the most a ticket could cost $70, he said.

Construction of the entire project between Washington and Baltimore will take approximately seven years, according to the report. Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail estimates it will cost $13 billion to build.

The report estimates, in 2018 dollars, the construction would generate between $8.8 billion and $10.6 billion in employee contracts. In the affected areas, businesses may be temporarily negatively impacted with revenue taking a hit ranging from $18.5 million to $311.3 million.

Operation and maintenance from the train would result in between 390 and 440 total jobs annually, and between $24.3 and $27.4 million in earnings, according to the report.

There is no funding appropriated for construction as of the publication of this report.

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