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Maryland maglev backers go quiet as new funds announced


Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration announced a memorandum of cooperation between Maryland and Japan on the maglev train proposal, but project backers otherwise have been quiet in recent months. (File.)

The prospect of a 300-mph train magnetic-levitation train rushing passengers between Baltimore and Washington in 15 minutes was greeted with a wave of fanfare last year, but there’s been little update on the project’s progress since that time.

On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration announced a memorandum of cooperation between Maryland and Japan, which included funding for feasibility studies on the Superconducting Magnetic Levitation transportation project.

But there’s not been a peep from the advocacy group pushing the program The Northeast Maglev and project developer Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail about progress on the project in some time.

The last news releases about the project on The Northeast Maglev website are from November, when a the federal government awarded a $27.8 million grant to Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, and when that same group’s application for a passenger railroad franchise was granted by the state.

Calls to Northeast Maglev and the firm’s Chairman and CEO Wayne Rogers for an update on the project and for comment regarding the latest funding from the Japanese government were not returned.

Nearly a year ago Northeast Maglev and Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail celebrated opening offices in downtown Baltimore. The event was attended by former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who both serve on The Northeast Maglev advisory board, as well as other current and former public officials who are boosters of the project.

At that time it was announced the project had received funds from the Federal Railroad Administration to study how to build the maglev line through one of the nation’s most congested corridors.

Building the line is expected to cost about $10 billion. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation has pledged to subsidize half that amount. The Central Japan Railway Co. has also agreed to waive fees and licensing for using its maglev technology because it hopes to benefit from maglev development in the U.S.

Backing for the project in Maryland got a boost after Gov. Larry Hogan, during a trip to Japan last summer, took a ride on a maglev train and walked away impressed with the technology. But Hogan, who has been concerned about state spending, made clear his support of project was in large part because of its private funding.

Critics of the project have raised doubts about the proposed cost, especially since the maglev technology doesn’t integrate with existing rail networks. There are also concerns about constructing the needed maglev infrastructure, and questions about whether residents would put up with the disruptions required to build the tunnel the train would largely run through.

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