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Baltimore needs high-speed rail, not maglev | READER COMMENTARY

A TGV high-speed train at the Saint-Charles train station, in Marseille, southern France. File. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, file)
A TGV high-speed train at the Saint-Charles train station, in Marseille, southern France. File. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, file) (Claude Paris/AP)

When I first heard about having a magnetic levitation train connecting Baltimore to Washington, I was very excited. I’ve been interested in transportation since childhood when I spent a lot of time on Baltimore streetcars. Two of my uncles didn’t have cars and took the streetcar to work. Removing the streetcar was a terrible decision. We are still paying the price. I also remember taking the train to New York City to visit my aunts.

In my trips to Europe, I fell in love with all the great transportation options available locally and throughout the continent. I have taken several of the high speed trains: France’s TGV, Germany’s ICE and Spain’s AVE. I’ve taken the Thalys from Paris to Brussels and the Eurostar from London to Paris. I’ve taken local public transportation in most of the Western European capitals and other cities. The key is connectivity. When the train approaches a lake, you transfer to a boat and when approaching a mountain you transfer to a funicular. European public transportation is heavily subsidized as part of public policy as roadways are less common and parking almost impossible. In Europe, everyone takes public transportation. It is not a matter of class or income. Some local transportation systems are more basic and remind me of the Baltimore streetcar system. An example is the Amsterdam tram. This kind of system does not require the same degree of engineering, construction and dislocation. Bringing the streetcar back to Baltimore would be a relatively easy proposition.

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Regrettably, I must agree with the decision of Baltimore’s planning and transportation chiefs for the reasons they state: “equity, environmental justice and community impacts” (”Baltimore City recommends against building proposed $10 billion high-speed Maglev train to Washington,” June 23). The negatives outweigh the positives. It’s hard to imagine how this project would benefit the metro area of Baltimore. The price tag is too high, and hardly any locals would benefit. I support high-speed trains connecting the Northeast corridor from Washington to Boston. The new Baltimore tunnel will increase the speed of trains and will benefit more people. Transportation is a priority of the Biden administration. We will never forget the terrible decision of Gov. Larry Hogan to nix the Red Line. This really hurt the people of Baltimore. It takes more time to travel by bus from East Baltimore to Catonsville than it does to go to the moon. A high-speed train plus streetcars would be a winning combination.

My praise of European transit infrastructure is not 100%. Disastrous planning and construction of the “new” Brandenburg Airport in Berlin called German ingenuity into question. The major Crossrail project in London has been beset by costly overruns and opening delays. Fortunes have been wasted on these projects. American planners need to study these major European projects so that the chaos is not replicated here. These major transportation infrastructure projects must be very well planned with contractors held responsible for expensive delays. High-speed trains are what is needed for our area along with major improvements in local transportation. China is building local transportation systems in Africa and Latin America. Maybe we should consult the Chinese on major transportation infrastructure projects. This is a test of American will and ingenuity. Hopefully, we are up to the challenge.

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Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore

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