SEABROOK – A high-speed train project pledging to revolutionize travel through the Northeast Corridor has received both support and backlash as it looks to make gains in the Baltimore-Washington region.
Northeast Maglev is a company looking to bring the Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV) rail project to the Northeast Corridor. It proposes a high-speed, 36-mile train route from that would include travel from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, with an intermediate stop at BWI Marshall Airport. The ultimate goal is to have a one-hour service from D.C. to New York.
“Just as the B&O Railroad was a transformative public transportation infrastructure initiative that benefited companies, communities and citizens of its day and beyond, the SCMAGLEV project will begin in Maryland and make our great state stronger and more competitive,” Northeast Maglev Chairman and CEO Wayne Rogers said.
According to Maglev, the project is under review by federal, state and local agencies as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Maryland Department of Transportation-Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT-MTA) prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. Project construction could begin as soon as 2021 if “timely approvals are received,” according to a Maglev statement.
Recently, the Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Northern Anne Arundel and Prince George’s County Chambers of Commerce announced the collaborative efforts for the organizations’ support for the first phase of the multi-billion dollar project.
Chamber executives voiced support on Dec. 4 for the positive impact the project will have on the area businesses, visitors, residents and state and local economies.
“We are thrilled to partner with these four chambers of commerce based on the abundance of local business opportunities the project will create and the new businesses it will attract to the region,” Rogers said.
The Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce (PGCOC), led by President and CEO David Harrington, has an alliance of an estimated more than 600 businesses representing 250,000 employees in the Washington Metropolitan region.
Harrington believes this project is a win-win for county businesses, reducing vehicular dependence in the country’s second-most congested area.
“As the Washington Metropolitan region continues to grow at a fast pace, more businesses and residents are calling Prince George’s County home, and this project is a much-needed transportation option offering an economically compelling opportunity to change the county and Northeast Corridor in a fundamental way,” he said.
On the other hand, Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd, along with the Greenbelt City Council, are unanimously and diametrically opposed to the Maglev. The price, cost, and the possibility of displaced residents and businesses are among some of the factors that alarm Byrd and his colleagues, he said.
“There are a number of concerns that I have about the project and that we collectively have about the project,” Byrd said, alleging that the project is poised to be more of a liability to the residents of the Prince George’s community than an asset.
In contrast, Harrington said, “it’s not coming through neighborhoods at all, it’s going straight-up BWI (Baltimore-Washington Parkway) frankly as I understand it.”
“I think the opposition for it is way too early until we see the exact plans that have been approved, and then people can weigh in,” Harrington said. “What information are people going on that is about the opposition? And in fact, the cost, the cost is being (covered) by Maglev. As far as I know, there isn’t any request for public money for this project.”
Harrington, in his seventh year with the chamber, said believes the rail system will create more substantial regional employment and economic opportunities.
“Transportation is always at the core of any economic development,” Harrington said.
Should the project get approved, the route may go through federal land in and around the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, and the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, according to a May 1 story published in The Sentinel.
“There’s going to be major issues when it comes to access and practicality for your average resident,” Byrd said.
“My big concern is if you bring it through here, and it’s going to cost a whole lot of money from taxpayers that I represent, federal taxpayers that I represent, and I’m not seeing any benefit for my constituents. I’m very alarmed, to say the least. That’s kind of where we are right now.”
Byrd, recently elected as the youngest mayor in Greenbelt history, said he remains cautiously optimistic that the project can be stopped entirely. But “if it has to happen,” he said, “I really want the route to go outside of Greenbelt.” However, that may be a rather arduous task at this point, he added.
For the last two years, Greenbelt’s city council has expressed opposition to Maglev, Byrd said. In those two years, Byrd said many letters written by the City of Greenbelt officials had been sent to various transportation officials, such as the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA).
“I’ve had conversations with scores of residents in my city about the issue. Again, actually, they are very strongly opposed. They got more questions than answers, and they got more concerns than likes,” Byrd said, explaining instances where he saw signs throughout local neighborhoods saying “Stop the Maglev.”
Besides Greenbelt, the residents of Bowie, Laurel, Landover and Cheverly have expressed disdain to the construction of Maglev. The cost, along with the idea of the train running through the community, would disrupt one’s perception of what a neighborhood is, Byrd said.
“There’s just a lot of folks that cannot appreciate that there’s a value to that,” Byrd said. “There’s absolutely no value in their minds and in my mind to that kind of neighborhood disruption.”