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Md. chambers of commerce back maglev linking Baltimore and DC

Wayne Rogers, chairman and CEO of Northeast Maglev. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Wayne Rogers, chairman and CEO of Northeast Maglev. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Potential for Northeast Maglev’s proposed high-speed train line to bolster the regional economy by reducing congestion between Washington and Baltimore has convinced a quartet of business advocacy groups to endorse the scheme.

Representatives from the chambers of commerce from Baltimore, Prince George’s and northern Anne Arundel counties and from Baltimore City said on Wednesday they back the plan. Maglev will improve the area’s lackluster transportation system that hinders economic development, the organizations’ leaders said, and create thousands of jobs.

“Transportation is the core of economic development anywhere in the region. So no longer are we bound by our territories. We are now (working at) a regional scope, and Maglev helps do that,” said David C. Harrington, president and CEO of the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce.

Northeast Maglev, the company seeking to build the line, eventually wants to complete a line running from Washington to New York with stops in Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia. In 2016, the overall project was estimated to cost around $10 billion.

Superconducting maglev trains, which have operated in Japan for more than 50 years, have reached speeds of nearly 375 miles per hour. Traveling at a normal speed of about 310 miles per hour could potentially transform regional economies by substantially reducing travel time between cities.

A maglev trip potentially reduces the time it takes to travel from D.C. to New York to an hour. The trip from Baltimore to Baltimore Washington International Airport would take about five minutes, and it would be eight minutes to go from the airport to Washington.

Northeast Maglev projects construction of a 36-mile long line between Baltimore and Washington, which would create 74,000 construction jobs alone. Once the line between Washington and Baltimore is complete it’s anticipated the service will employ 1,500 workers.

Brent Howard, executive director and president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, called transportation “the secret sauce” in attracting high-wage jobs to the Baltimore area. The permanent jobs expected from completing maglev, he said, represent the type of employment lacking in the Baltimore metro area.

“We’re talking about high-wage jobs. We’re not talking about lower-level jobs. We’re talking about having someone actually work for (Northeast) Maglev, and be able to afford to live in Baltimore County, live in Howard County, live in Baltimore City, and be prosperous,” Howard said. “That’s something we need in this particular area.”

Significant details about the project, such as the cost of the project and the fee to ride the train, remain unsettled.

The price for a trip, Wayne Rogers, chairman and CEO of Northeast Maglev said, will depend on such factors as the interest rates the company pays to finance the project. A spin on the maglev from Baltimore to Washington, he said, is expected to cost more than an Amtrak ticket but less than a ride between the cities via ride sharing service like Uber.

Potential routes for the maglev line remain under review by federal and state government agencies, Rogers said. A report narrowing options for routes down to two potential paths, however, is expected next year, and construction could start as soon as 2021.

The four local chambers of commerce are the latest organizations to say they support the project. Northeast Maglev previously earned the backing of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP and the Greater Baltimore Urban League.

The first substantial support for the project came from North America’s Building Trade Unions, an alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction trades, which signed a labor agreement with maglev backers in early 2017.

While Northeast Maglev has lined up the support of groups with substantial political clout in Maryland the proposal still faces resistance.

During the 2019 General Assembly Session, Dels. Mark Chang of Anne Arundel County and Geraldine Valentino-Smith of Prince George’s County backed failed legislation to prevent Maryland from granting needed right-of-ways to the project.

Residents who live in areas near potential train routes have also launched groups, such as Citizens Against SCMaglev, that advocate against the project via social media.

Northeast Maglev, Rogers said, will continue to reach out to groups concerned about the project to address misconceptions and win over skeptics. Those efforts will involve combating common misconceptions that have led some residents to oppose the project, he said.

“Right now 75% of the alignment is going to be underground. So it’s not going to be going through people’s houses or going through people’s communities,” Rogers said. “But they hear train and think instantly, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s going to have an alignment through my community.’”

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