A futuristic 300 mile-an-hour train that would run silently between Washington and Baltimore moved one step closer to reality yesterday as Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke appointed a committee to help promote the magnetic levitation rail line for Baltimore.
The maglev train, as it is known, could rush commuters between the two cities in as few as 15 minutes, not counting a stop at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. But it probably won't be built here unless the mayor's Maglev Advisory Committee can raise $500,000 from non-federal sources to match a grant included in the U.S. Transportation Department's appropriation bill.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., worked to have the bill include the grant, which would go toward a study of the feasibility of building a maglev prototype line between Washington and Baltimore. A number of states, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and New York, are competing for the 30- to 40-mile demonstration project. The prototype line could cost up to $1 billion.
The transportation authorization bill is in a House-Senate conference committee, which is expected to complete its work by Thanksgiving, according to William Boardman, who heads a coalition working to develop maglev technology and locate the demonstration line between Baltimore and Washington.
The mayor's committee includes people from several of the organizations in Mr. Boardman's coalition, including Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the Abell Foundation. Others on the committee include Ms. Mikulski and Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd; Honora Freeman, president of the Baltimore Development Corp.; executives from the Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman and Piper & Marbury law firms; officials from the University of Maryland at Baltimore and Morgan State University; and leaders of other private businesses.
"We think the development of maglev will change our relationship with Washington," Mr. Schmoke said. "It'll have a tremendous positive impact on the quality of life in our communities."
Mr. Schmoke did not pledge any city money, but Mr. Cardin said that state Transportation Secretary O. James Lightizer has been "very positive" about the project.