Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., says she will introduce legislation April 9 designating the Baltimore-Washington corridor for construction of a 300 mph magnetic levitation passenger train.
The estimated cost of the 40-mile demonstration project is at least $600 million, about the same as the first 6 1/2 -mile segment of Baltimore's subway system. If approved and built without delay, it could be carrying passengers by the year 2000.
"I've been mesmerized by mag-lev technology," Mikulski told a gathering of civic, business, financial and manufacturing executives yesterday. They met at the Baltimore offices of the Maryland Growth Associates Inc., a non-profit organization that promotes economic development.
"There is no doubt that this offers opportunities for economic development, safe and efficient transportation and energy self-sufficiency," she said. "I want to make mag-lev one of my top legislative priorities. It's in Maryland's best interests and in the best interests of our country."
Mag-lev trains would whisk people between Baltimore and Washington in 15 minutes. Passengers would ride in quiet, airliner-like cars that glide along elevated tracks built above interstate highway rights of way.
The electric cars would be propelled and suspended inches above the tracks by superconducting magnets, minimizing noise and eliminating air pollution along the railway.
If successful, the Baltimore-Washington line would become the first link in a high-tech system that would link cities from Washington to Boston, and eventually other key urban hubs that now rely primarily on congested highways and short-hop airliners.
Mikulski also will seek a $500,000 federal matching grant for a $1 million feasibility study of the Baltimore-Washington "mag-lev" corridor. The rest would be paid for by state, local and private interests. The Maryland House of Delegates, in a 99-11 vote Monday, passed a resolution expressing its support for a mag-lev line in Maryland. A Senate version is under consideration.
Mag-lev trains are increasingly being touted as viable, even vital answers to inter-city traffic congestion here and abroad during the next century.
The technology was invented in the United States, but government support for its development was cut off by the Ford administration. That left it to the Germans and the Japanese, whose governments have subsidized the development and construction of working demonstration systems.
The U.S. government now appears committed to having a mag-lev system built somewhere. Congress already has allocated $10 million for a yearlong study of the most feasible design for a mag-lev system. The Bush administration has said it wants the system built with private dollars; industry says mag-lev will pay for itself, but needs the same sort of development jump-start like the government gave the railroad and highway systems.
Maryland is not alone in the mag-lev race. Washington state has already filed legislation asking for a federally aided feasibility study and designation of a Seattle-Tacoma route for the federal demonstration project.
Other mag-lev projects being pursued include a Los Angeles-Las Vegas, Nev., line, a Pittsburgh-Philadelphia link and an Orlando, Fla., system.