The new president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League announced her organization's support for a proposed high-speed maglev train, like the one in Japan shown above, linking Baltimore and Washington.
The new president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League announced her organization's support for a proposed high-speed maglev train, like the one in Japan shown above, linking Baltimore and Washington. (Richard Colombo / For The Baltimore Sun)

In her first public act as incoming president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League, Tiffany W. Majors announced her organization’s support Thursday for a proposed high-speed train linking Baltimore and Washington.

The magnetic levitation, or maglev, train, based on Japanese technology and boosted by a well-connected group of American investors, would travel at speeds topping 300 mph and connect the two cities in 15 minutes, backers say. The plan is currently being studied by federal and state officials.

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Majors, who started in her new job this week, said construction of the train would be a huge source of good jobs for Baltimoreans, and she felt that establishing an early partnership with the train’s backers would help to “ensure that we are not taking anything away from our impoverished cities, but putting forth an employment opportunity.”

Majors said it’s “imperative” that nonprofits like hers focus on sustaining employment opportunities early and often — particularly with the Hogan administration’s cancellation of the Red Line transit project through the city, Amazon passing over Baltimore’s for its next headquarters, and the recently announced closure of a General Motors plant in Baltimore County.

Supporters estimate that construction of the maglev line would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, arranged through a mix of Japanese loans, private investments, and federal government loans and grants. They say it would create thousands of jobs during and after construction

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Wayne Rogers, chairman and CEO of Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, a U.S. company that would operate the proposed line, said he looked forward to working with Majors’ organization “to provide a better quality of life for residents of the Greater Baltimore region” through infrastructure work linked to the project.

Planners have narrowed more than a dozen potential routes for the train down to two, both of which would be more than two-thirds tunnel and follow the Route 295 corridor. They also have narrowed potential station locations to two in the Mount Vernon Square area in downtown Washington; one beneath BWI Marshall Airport; and two in Baltimore — near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and one above ground in Cherry Hill, near Westport.

Planners say they eventually want to connect Washington to New York, a trip they say the maglev could make in an hour.

A single preferred maglev route is expected to come in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement next year. The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to issue a final report saying whether the line should be built by 2020.

Majors said she is aware of local criticisms of the maglev, including that it could displace city residents while being too expensive for many city residents to use — and draw public funding away from more affordable public transit options such citizens rely on. But, Majors said she believes the project ultimately represents promise for Baltimore, and will expand work opportunities for residents that her organization cannot ignore.

She said the Northeast Maglev group does not provide financial support to her organization, but that she is interested in attracting such funding from “companies and agencies throughout Maryland.”

Majors is the first woman to lead the Baltimore Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League. She replaces J. Howard Henderson, who has led the Greater Baltimore Urban League for 20 years. Henderson’s last day is Dec. 21. Majors said their overlap is beneficial, as Henderson shares his knowledge of the organization and its existing connections in the region.

The Baltimore Sun went to Japan to ride the maglev — and studied the plan to build one in Maryland

Reporter Kevin Rector traveled across Japan and the Baltimore-Washington region to better understand a proposal to replicate Japan's 311-mph maglev train in the U.S.

Majors most recently did consulting work with Reasonable Tech Solutions, where she said she helped local jurisdictions implement information technology and cybersecurity lessons into school curriculums. Prior to that she worked for the state as director of quality initiatives in the Office of Health Care Quality, and as CEO and project director at Baltimore Healthy Start, which works to reduce infant mortality.

She said the job at the Greater Baltimore Urban League attracted her because she wanted to “get back to the grassroots programs in the inner city, working with nonprofits and sustaining programs that offered low-served and under-served individuals opportunities.”

The Baltimore Urban League was founded in 1924 to help “disadvantaged Marylanders gain access to equal opportunity in employment, education, health care, housing and the civic arena.” The National Urban League was founded in 1910 with similar goals.

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