Proposed maglev draws opposition from Laurel city officials

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe has voiced his opposition of the proposed high-speed maglev rail line that would connect Baltimore to Washington, D.C. and could potentially run through South Laurel.

The Northeast Maglev project, estimated at $10 to $12 billion, would shorten the trip between Baltimore and Washington to 15 minutes, eventually connecting D.C. and New York with a one-hour trip on trains that are propelled via magnetic levitation. There are currently three proposed locations for the rail line – two along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and running through Greenbelt, west of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

According to the project’s website, the two proposed locations would continue just east of the Montpelier community before crossing into Anne Arundel County. A third location is proposed further east in Glenn Dale, passing the west side of Bowie State University and continuing east of Fort Meade.

Stations would be located in Baltimore, Washington and at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, with at least 70 percent of the train line underground. Construction could begin as early as 2019 or 2020, if the project is approved.

On Dec. 6, Moe said he sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and Prince George’s County officials, including District 1 Councilwoman Mary Lehman, to express his concerns. Hogan shared his support of the project in 2015, while Lehman disapproves.

Lehman could not be reached for comment, but said in her monthly e-newsletter that she will schedule a District 1 maglev meeting in January to inform residents of the project’s detriments.

“I’m not opposed to regional transportation; I encourage it and support it,” Moe said. “I think we have things in place now that we ought to be improving. We should be putting those [project] funds toward things that are there to either make the service better or make sure that the infrastructure can handle what we have.”

The northeast region has operating MARC train, Amtrak and local and regional bus services, which should be reviewed before a decision is made about maglev, Moe said. Maglev also has no beneficial impact on Prince George’s County or the city of Laurel.

“I just think it’s a bad move,” he said. “I see the damage it will do, the lands it will take and things that it’ll do to the environment.”

In addition to construction on land owned by the Department of Agriculture and Fish and Wildlife Service, the two proposals would eliminate 50 existing homes and 60 planned homes in the Montpelier Hills townhouse community.

The Montpelier Community Association has not yet discussed the proposal, according to a representative.

Michael Leszcz, Laurel City Council president, said that maglev doesn’t directly impact the city, but will “clutter up” the now-scenic Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Leszcz said the project was discussed with the National League of Cities and the Transportation Infrastructure Services Committee.

After hearing a presentation before the Prince George’s County Municipal Association, Leszcz said he’s not convinced of the project’s value.

“I don’t think they have the wrinkles ironed out on the technology yet,” he said. “We have existing railroad beds that should be fixed first [and] we’ve got a metro that’s falling apart.”

The maglev project has already run into controversy. In November, the Anne Arundel County school board voted to oppose any route “that is disruptive to our schools and surrounding communities.” The proposed routes cross four of the county’s elementary schools.

Reporter Libby Solomon contributed to this story.

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