Tag: maglev

Event: Alternatives to Maglev

Event: Alternatives to Maglev

September 21 – The proposed high speed Maglev train between Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C. would harm a national park, a national wildlife refuge, the Chesapeake Bay and numerous nearby communities.

NPCA, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the West Baltimore Project, Delegate Jared Solomon, and Delegate Robbyn Lewis hosted a conversation about why the proposed Baltimore-Washington Maglev project is wrong for the region and the numerous transit solutions currently being considered.

View the event recording on YouTube.

CSG Testimony Re: DC-Baltimore Maglev

May 4, 2021 

House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure 

Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials 

2167 Rayburn House Office Building 

45 Independence Ave SW 

Washington, DC 20515 

Hearing: “When Unlimited Potential Meets Limited Resources: The Benefits and Challenges of High-Speed Rail and Emerging Rail Technologies” 

Testimony for May 5, 2021 

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager 

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the Washington, DC region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way to grow and provide opportunities for all. We have strong partnerships with business, conservation, and affordable housing organizations, and received the 2017 Regional Partnership Award from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. 

We have been strong supporters of major rail improvements in the Northeast corridor, but are convinced that the proposed Baltimore-Washington Superconducting Magnetic Levitation (SCMAGLEV) project is the wrong technology and design for the Washington-Baltimore corridor and the NE Corridor as a whole. Therefore, we urge you to not provide federal financial support to this project. Instead, we urge significant investments in both the Amtrak and commuter rail improvement programs. 

The project would have a negative impact on racial and social equity. Construction would plow through majority Black Prince George’s County, but the residents of Prince George’s County would not be able to take advantage of the project, since the technology and design speed are such that there will only be stops in DC, at BWI Airport, and at Penn Station in Baltimore. Environmental Justice (EJ) communities would be disproportionately impacted, with 80 percent of impacted parcels located in EJ communities. 

Furthermore, the high projected cost of a one-way ticket sends a signal that this project is for the wealthiest white-collar commuters, not those who will suffer from the damage wrought by the project or those who need more accessible, frequent, and affordable transit. A $60 ticket for the SCMAGLEV would be about seven times more than an existing MARC commuter rail ticket for the same trip ($8) or existing Amtrak Acela ticket ($46). 

We are also concerned about the project’s negative effect on existing taxpayer investments in transit. The project is already diverting attention from repairing and improving our existing MARC and Amtrak infrastructure. If public funding is required for the Maglev, it could divert hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to fare revenue lost due to reduced ridership on Amtrak and MARC. 

The Maglev is a potential public-private partnership, and recent experience with P3s in Maryland and other states suggests that public funding will be required. Given that Maglev is a multi-billion dollar technology yet to be implemented anywhere in the U.S., this project could require significant public funding. 

The limited time savings is also not worth the cost and risk. The Acela Express between DC and Baltimore currently takes 30 minutes. While Maglev would cut time spent on the train in half, it doesn’t account for time spent getting to the station. The average total trip would go from 90 minutes to 75 minutes, which is not worth the risk, nor the costs to equity and environmental quality. 

Investing in the Maryland MARC and Amtrak NE Corridor expansion plans would more effectively serve the transit needs of our region and the NE Corridor. Upgrades to the existing rail system could also more easily be extended to other destinations like New York and Boston, than would be the case with Maglev which would need entirely new right-of-way through the very densely developed Northeast. Existing rail stations are located in more central and well-established transit hubs, like DC’s Union Station. A much more cost-effective solution would be to invest in improving our existing infrastructure and upgrade over time to high-speed rail standards. 

In conclusion, we urge you to pursue upgrades to the nation’s existing rail infrastructure, including high-speed rail, in lieu of the SCMAGLEV. Thank you for your time.

Maryland Remains Serious About Maglev, Despite Skeptics

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s dream of building a magnetic levitation train — known as maglev — has taken two key steps, placing Maryland among a small number of states slowly moving toward establishing the first high-speed rail systems in the U.S., a half century after Japan operated its first bullet train.

On Nov. 7, Maryland received a $28 million federal grant to study the engineering and planning of a 40-mile line connecting Baltimore and Washington, a critical part of the federal environmental approval process. And on Nov. 17 the state’s public service commission transferred a passenger railroad franchise to The Northeast Maglev, the private sector firm contributing $7 million to the engineering study.

“This is big news,” said Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn. “This goes beyond the feasibility study and goes into its planning and engineering. This is a big step. This is a requirement necessary for a project to actually occur.”

Trying maglev again

Indeed, Maryland is further along than the last time the state considered maglev at the beginning of the last decade. The project failed to secure public support or the necessary funding, and a 2004 state statute blocked further work.

More recently, Pennsylvania gave up on its maglev studies, returning the grant money to the Federal Railroad Administration three years ago. That opened up an opportunity for Maryland to apply for the funds.

Why will this time be different? Sec. Rahn points to the private sector taking the lead with support from Japan.

“If you look around the country, there have been an awful lot of proposed maglev projects that just have fizzled as they moved down the path,” Rahn said. “What is interesting in this case is the pledge of funding coming from Japan.”

The Japan Bank of International Cooperation has pledged — pending the outcome of the federal environmental reviews of the project — a loan to cover half the estimated cost of about $10 billion. The Northeast Maglev (TNM) also has reached a deal with the Central Japan Railway Company to use its super conducting maglev technology, which moves trains well over 300 miles per hour. Central Japan Railway’s maglev is the fastest train in the world.

“We already have an agreement with the [railroad] that they would transfer that technology to us,” said Wayne Rogers, the chief executive of TNM. “We’ve looked over the entire world, and the Japanese technology is the newest, the best, the fastest, and the safest technology for high speed rail transportation.”

Rogers expects the engineering and planning studies to take about three years.

“We are very far along in what is a marathon and not a sprint. We have yet to finish the environmental impact statement work and yet to get all the state and local approvals, and the federal government approvals we need for the safety of the project,” he said.

High-speed rail in the United States

If Maryland and its private sector partners are able to see a Baltimore-to-D.C. maglev line through to completion, they would be among a small but growing number of states progressing on a long-stalled project: high-speed rail in the United States.

As mentioned, Japan has been running bullet trains for 50 years and is building out its maglev line that will eventually connect Tokyo and Nagoya.

China has 10,000 miles of high-speed rail, and started running a maglev in Shanghai in April 2004 at speeds of 267 miles per hour. Its inaugural ride was on New Year’s Eve in 2002, less than two years from the contract signing.

Several other nations — Korea, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and England — have been running trains over 200 miles per hour for years. (The international measurement for high-speed rail generally is considered cruising speeds of at least 150 miles per hour).

In the U.S., Amtrak’s Acela in the Northeast Corridor is the closest thing to high-speed rail, but it barely qualifies. It reaches 150 miles per hour for a few minutes on a single 30-mile stretch of rail in Rhode Island. Between D.C. and New York, Acela’s average speed is about 80 miles per hour, and plans to straighten the right-of-way to improve Acela’s efficiency would take years and many billions of dollars.

“We don’t have a big history of that here in the United States,” said Rob Puentes, a transportation policy expert at the Brookings Institution.

“We are just barely now starting to experiment with high speed rail investments. There are really good projects underway in California, in Texas, and in Florida.”

Construction of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco line started in January. But its budget reportedly will exceed the planned $68 billion because of tunneling issues along earthquake fault lines.

Building maglev — where trains float above a magnetic guideway — would also present physical challenges.

“We know that it certainly works in other parts of the world,” said Puentes, referring to the Japanese and Chinese systems. “The challenge is how do you do it here in the United States? Particularly, how would you do it in a congested corridor between Washington and Baltimore? The challenge with maglev is it has to be straight and it has to be flat, and that usually means tunneling.”

“It is going to happen.”

Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who made funding high-speed rail a priority during President Obama’s first term, said maglev’s expense of initial construction has been the biggest obstacle in the U.S.

“But when the Japanese came into the United States and made a huge investment it became clear that now it was incumbent upon maglev advocates to find money to match that,” said LaHood in an interview with WAMU 88.5.

“I think maglev is the next generation of transportation,” LaHood said. “When you have the Japanese willing to invest $5 billion you have to take that seriously because they have the expertise.”

More broadly, LaHood expects high-speed rail (the usual steel-on-steel technology) to take off in the coming decade. At the Obama administration’s urging, Congress appropriated close to $11 billion for the projects.

“For the naysayers and the detractors that want to continue to talk about traditional means of transportation, they are living in the past. They need to look to the future,” LaHood said.

“It is going to happen in California. It is going to happen along the Northeast Corridor with maglev. It is happening in Texas between Dallas and Houston. There are a number of projects that will put the United States on the map.”

The Brookings Institution’s Puentes said the U.S. does not lack opportunities for such projects. High-speed rail makes sense when it connects two major economic hubs that are too far apart for driving but too close for flying.

“High-speed rail is getting caught up in the larger infrastructure challenges we’re having in this country,” he said. “A lot of cities and states would love to have this done.”

But Puentes expects the straightening out of the Acela tracks could be the closest the Northeast Corridor comes to getting high-speed rail for the foreseeable future. A Baltimore-to-Washington maglev line could take ten years to finish, and extending the maglev up to New York could take decades longer.

In the meantime, critics contend Maryland has other, more important transit priorities.

“Certainly there are huge transit needs,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a public transit and environmental advocacy group.

Schwartz calls the maglev project a “distraction.”

“Maryland has done a significant study of MARC commuter rail needs. People would love to have all-day, two-way service between Baltimore and Washington and what better thing to jump start the continued revitalization of Baltimore,” he said.

Read at WAMU >>

Call It The Hogan Line: Maryland Seeks Study Of Baltimore-To-D.C. Maglev

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan might have found a pricey train worth pursuing. You just won’t be able to ride one in this country, at least not for many years.

During a 12-day trade mission to Asia that started May 26, Hogan is visiting Japan, where he will take a ride on the famous maglev (short for magnetic levitation) train that tops 300 miles per hour. There is more to the governor’s trip than mere curiosity about the fastest train in the world.

The Maryland Department of Transportation has applied for a federal grant to study a maglev line between Baltimore and Washington. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is reviewing the application for $27.8 million and is expected to make a decision later this year. Maryland is the only state interested in the maglev grant dollars.

The request comes as Hogan is threatening to cancel the suburban Purple Line and Baltimore’s Red Line transit projects because, in his view, they are too expensive, and the state’s representatives on the Metro board of directors are pushing the transit authority to tighten its budgets, potentially jeopardizing a planned expansion of Metro’s rail fleet in favor of bringing the existing fleet into a state of good repair.

Only a few states are even eligible to apply for the maglev grant. Under a 2008 federal law, three potential maglev projects were identified east of the Mississippi River: in Pittsburgh, Atlanta-Chattanooga, and Baltimore-Washington. Pennsylvania transportation officials returned the grant money to FRA, making it available to another state. Maryland went after it.

But the governor’s interest in maglev is puzzling to regional transit advocates who say the train’s prohibitive cost dwarfs that of the projects Hogan is threatening to cancel.

“There are so many other transit needs in the state of Maryland and the D.C. region, there is no possible way we could see going down the path of billions of dollars for a maglev,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, one of the most vocal proponents of the 16-mile Purple Line light rail project between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

The Maryland Department of Transportation did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Hogan has called the Purple Line’s price tag of $2.4 billion unacceptable – despite the promise of nearly $1 billion in federal aid – and his administration is expected to decide this month whether to proceed on scheduled construction.

What’s practical?
At the D.C. region’s transit authority, Maryland’s representatives are pressuring the Metro board of directors to hire a financial whiz instead of a transit specialist to be the next general manager. They are behind the board’s decision to delay the full expansion of the rail fleet well into next decade in favor of replacing more of Metro’s older rail cars, a move – pending federal approval – that could save $800 million this decade.

But the estimated cost of building a maglev line between Baltimore and D.C. is $10 billion (a maglev trip between the two cities would take about 15 minutes). Although Japan has promised to put up $5 billion, Schwartz said the idea is not practical.

“What’s needed is a decision in favor of the Purple Line and the Red Line, and additional investment in Metro rail and MARC commuter rail to enhance transit for far more people far more effectively,” Schwartz said.

Hogan will be joined in Japan by his secretary of transportation, Pete Rahn, and representatives of the D.C.-based firm The Northeast Maglev, which has been advocating a Washington-to-New York maglev for years. Its estimated price tag is $100 billion, or about more than twice what the federal government spends annually on surface transportation through the Highway Trust Fund.

Going all the way
Maglev experts said the Baltimore-to-D.C. line would take five to 10 years to build and provide dubious benefit.

“It would make no sense to build such a high-speed system unless you are going to go further, presumably at least to New York if not to Boston,” said John Harding, the former chief maglev scientist at the Federal Railroad Administration. Harding retired from FRA in 2004.

“It would be very hard to imagine that the ridership and fares would be sufficient to support such an expensive system, because obviously there are other alternatives which I would think would be much less expensive,” said Harding, who said his enthusiasm for maglev has waned over the years.

“It meets opposition at every point so I think it is very doubtful that we are going to see maglev here for a long time,” Harding said.

The maglev concept in Maryland dates to the late 1990s, when Congress created a program to be administered by FRA. The idea was to build a short line to demonstrate maglev’s effectiveness before building a long-distance, intercity corridor. FRA picked seven projects for further study. Among them was the Baltimore-Washington line, but the state legislature dropped the project in 2004 and federal funding fell away.

Read the original article here.