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Gov. Larry Hogan got two things right when he took an ultra-fast ride this week on Japan's magnetic levitation, or maglev, train. First, building a maglev line between Baltimore and Washington would be utterly transformative by all but collapsing the distance between the two cities. And second, given the fact that the state is presently not being asked to put any of its own money into the project, there's no reason not to proceed. Mr. Hogan says he will seek $28 million in grant funding to help study the feasibility of what backers are billing as the first leg of an eventual line linking the major cities on the East Coast.

The trip, in which Mr. Hogan's train hit 314 miles per hour on a test track near Mt. Fuji, was obviously eye-opening for the governor. "There is no question that this is the future of transportation," the governor said, according to The Washington Post. The governor's excitement is understandable, but a future with maglev is not inevitable. Indeed, people have been making the same observation Mr. Hogan did for decades. Making maglev happen would require the will to bring about a vision for a more interconnected region despite what would eventually become high costs and other barriers. We're glad that he can see the potential and not just the difficulties.

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Our hope is that he will apply the same sensibility to two other projects that would also be transformative, if less exciting: the Red and Purple light rail lines in the Baltimore and Washington regions. The fate of both, which Mr. Hogan criticized on the campaign trail as too expensive, rests in his hands. Purple Line backers immediately seized on the governor's enthusiasm about maglev, a potentially $10 billion project, criticizing him for being willing to check out a rail line in Japan but failing to take a tour of the proposed route of the Purple Line. (The same, incidentally, is true of the Red Line; a spokesman says he has not been invited to do so. It's an oversight the backers of both lines should immediately rectify, though instead of taking him on a trip at lightning speed, they should make him schlep it on the bus at rush hour.)

To some degree, the comparison is apples and oranges. For the time being anyway, pursuing maglev requires no contribution of state funds. The Japanese government, eager to spur exports of its rail technology, has offered to finance half the cost of the Baltimore-Washington maglev. The Japan Central Railway, the U.S. federal government and private investors are expected to pick up the remaining tab. By contrast, the state is expected to contribute billions if it builds both the Red and Purple lines, and local governments are expected to add hundreds of millions more. What Mr. Hogan is being asked to do in regard to maglev is, basically, not to stand in the way. What he's being asked to do with regard to the Red and Purple lines is to devote a substantial portion of the state's transportation budget to two projects. Of course there's another difference as well: The state has already invested substantially in the Red and Purple lines ($450 million in planning and design), and abandoning them now would be a huge waste.

Fundamentally, though, maglev and light rail are about the same thing: creating the infrastructure for an integrated regional economy. Being able to traverse the 14.1-mile route from Woodlawn to the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus without a car may not be as sexy as blasting between Baltimore and Washington in 15 minutes, but it would have a similarly profound effect on the lives of those who live and work along the route. The Red and Purple lines combined are expected to create 35,000 jobs and more than $9 billion in economic activity. What's more, the two projects are essentially ready to go now. A second-term Governor Hogan could potentially take the inaugural rides on both if he approved them today.

It would have been easy for Mr. Hogan to cynically say, as critics long have, that maglev is the technology of tomorrow and always will be. It's harder to make a bet on a big and potentially transformative project, and we are heartened that Mr. Hogan is willing to entertain the idea. We hope he'll apply the same vision to the two rail projects on his desk today.

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