GREENBELT – A small group of local area residents gathered on Oct. 6 outside of Bladensburg Waterfront Park to rally against the proposed Superconductor Maglev rail network.
The protest, co-organized by Citizens Against This SCMaglev (CATS) and Greenbelt Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice, was the most drastic effort undertaken by local civic and environmental groups to spread the word about the dangers of the controversial project.
At the event, the protesters distributed information and buttons to interested pedestrians, as well as waving “STOP THIS TRAIN” signs at passing cars – many of whom honked back as a show of solidarity for the cause. Community members of all descriptions came together, from private citizens to community leaders to county and state politicians.
Among the crowd was Greenbelt City Councilman Colin Byrd, a frequent attendee at anti-Maglev events over the past year. Also attending was Maryland State Delegate Jimmy Tarlau (District 47A).
“I think people here are concerned about building the Maglev underneath our community,” said Tarlau. “It’s gonna come underneath where we’re standing now.”
The Maglev, a joint venture between Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR) and The Northeast Maglev (TNEM), aims to bring commuters from Baltimore to Washington on magnetically-levitating trains inspired by similar systems in Japan. If finished, the journey would take as little as 15 minutes, even accounting for a brief stopover at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
While construction has not yet begun on the track, it has already become the subject of intense debate in several city councils across its proposed construction area. Project leaders and proponents believe that the Maglev will lessen traffic congestion in the D.C. area and provide a faster, “greener” method of transportation, making it a much-needed alternative to the WMATA rail and bus network.
But some, like Tarlau, believe the state’s money should be pointed towards fixing the public transportation system instead.
“I think it’s a bad use of resources,” said Tarlau. “We have a lot of transportation needs in Prince George’s County, and putting all this money into a high-speed line…is just a real waste.”
Rally attendees living in the towns on the Maglev’s projected path find the potential risk to their livelihoods far too great to ignore. The project organizers have narrowed their scope down to two possible routes, both of which would require extensive tunneling through Prince George’s County.
Even for the above-ground sections, large numbers of houses would need to be cleared by way of eminent domain, rally attendees said.
“The vibration and all the tunneling, with a train going 311 miles per hour, we’re thinking we will feel that,” said Ina Fells, representing the town of Woodlawn.
In Beacon Heights, the Maglev would tunnel underneath the Cherry Hill Cemetery, a historic African-American landmark established in 1884. For Keilow King, president of the Beacon Heights Citizens’ Association, this is a major point of contention.
“We don’t think it’s fair to the graves that are there, that have been established there since the 1800s, when freed slaves actually established that graveyard,” said King.
The SCMaglev organizers will release the next draft of its Environmental Impact Statement in February 2019, in which more details of the project’s progress are expected to be revealed.