In recent months, there has been a lot of buzz about options for high-speed transportation between Washington and Baltimore. If you’re confused, you are probably not alone. There are several companies involved in proposing systems using different technologies that would speed people between the two cities at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour.
Here’s our attempt to demystify some of what’s being discussed.
MagLev is short for magnetic levitation. It has also been referred to as Superconducting MagLev, or SCMagLev in reference to the high-speed train system proposed for the Baltimore-Washington Corridor. The idea is that through magnetic levitation, a train could “float” with virtually no friction above a track and achieve very high speeds. Trains would travel between Washington and Baltimore at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, cutting the trip to 15 minutes.
Who Would Build It?
The MagLev project in Maryland is backed by The Northeast MagLev, which is trying to build a MagLev train network connecting not just Baltimore and Washington, but Wilmington, Delaware, Philadelphia, and New York City. Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR) is the franchise of Northeast MagLev looking to actually build the section in our area. The project could cost an estimated $10-12 billion, and it’s up to Northeast MagLev to find the funds from a variety of public and private sources, though it reportedly has a commitment of $5 billion from Japan. The actual operation of the system would be offset by revenues, company officials said. The state of Maryland got about $28 million from the federal government to conduct impact studies, but it has not committed any additional funds.
Where Would MagLev Go?
Some proposed routes had the train going through communities including Linthicum, Odenton and Bowie, but those routes were scrapped after residents voiced opposition. The current preferred alignment would run along the east side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Plans suggest the train would run from Baltimore into Washington, with a final stop near New York Avenue or Mount Vernon Square.
OK, so What is Hyperloop?
Hyperloop is a transportation system in which trains or “pods” travel through a vacuum system that allows for speeds of upwards of 600 miles per hour. It’s the brainchild of entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. He has made designs for the system open source, allowing other companies to develop and test Hyperloop systems.
Are We Getting Hyperloop System Connecting D.C. and Baltimore?
Not exactly. Last week, The Boring Company (another Musk company) announced that it would explore a “Loop” system allowing for high-speed subterranean travel between the two cities. The system would allow for vehicles of 6-12 people travel 125 to 150 miles per hour. The company has been in early talks with the District about having a stop at New York Avenue. The Loop system would not technically be a full Hyperloop system, as it would not require vacuum tubes, But it would be compatible with a Hyperloop system if one were ever built along the Northeast Corridor. The Boring Company says it can build an underground Loop system because it’s developed systems to dig tunnels faster and cheaper than ever before.
Are Any of These Systems Being Built Soon?
No. The MagLev system is probably closest to reality because there are actual environmental impact studies being performed. But there are still big questions as to where the money for construction will come from. That said, there appears to be reasonably strong support from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and other government leaders who see the system as having potential economic benefits for the region.
The Boring Company, meanwhile, says it will fully fund any Loop project and is in discussions with various government agencies about the project. But it’s still very unclear what approvals will be needed and what the actual steps to completion will be.
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