House panel urged to support high-speed rail for Md.

March 20, 1991|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS — An article in yesterday's Business section about a proposed magnetic levitation railroad incorrectly named a founder of the B&O Railroad. The founder was Charles Carroll.

The Sun regrets the errors.

ANNAPOLIS -- John Carroll, one of the founders of the nation's first commercial railroad in 1832, understandably could not make it to the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday to testify about magnetic levitation rail.

So one of his descendants took up the charge.

"Primarily because of this historic confluence, we have the opportunity to create a basic transportation system in Maryland again," said Richard Carroll Kauffman, a Baltimore resident and distant relative of the 19th century politician who helped


start the B&O Railroad in Baltimore.

Mr. Kauffman was speaking of the so-called "maglev" system, whose technology was invented in the United States in the 1960s. Since then, the United States largely has forfeited the race, such as it is, to build a commercial maglev system. Germany and Japan have short working prototypes of maglev railroads.

Using magnetism, the technology allows a train to float on a thin cushion of air, traveling up to 300 mph quietly and using little fuel.

The question before the committee was a resolution that Maryland urge Congress to fund the design and development of a prototype maglev system. A consortium of businesses and academic, government and philanthropic groups is lobbying for the funding and for Congress to build the first leg of the system from Baltimore to Washington.

"High-speed maglev rail can do for the state's economy what the railroad did for our economy in the 19th century," said Delegate James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George's, the primary sponsor of the resolution.

Cost estimates for design and construction of a 35-mile prototype line run as high as $1 billion, and the state ultimately chosen for the project could be expected to pay 10 percent or more.

"Are we committing Maryland to a financial investment" by passingthe resolution? asked Delegate Elizabeth S. Smith, R-Anne Arundel.

"That's not the intent of the resolution," Mr. Rosapepe assured. Instead, Maryland simply would be expressing its support for the project, he said.

Other states, however, already have made small financial commitments to maglev by funding feasibility studies and the like, said William Boardman, president of MAGLEV USA, the public- and private-sector consortium pushing for the project.

Mr. Boardman said that maglev is envisioned as an alternative to short-haul airline service, which is becoming increasingly expensive and time-consuming.

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