Officials' hopes high for maglev funding

Md. may be among research finalists for high-speed rail

January 18, 2001|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Some of Maryland's top elected officials will journey to Washington this afternoon with expectations high that the state is among the finalists for the national magnetic levitation train project.

The governor, lieutenant governor and both U.S. senators, among others, received invitations yesterday to attend an announcement at 3 p.m., and some were making plans to attend.

"We know it's a possibility, but that's all we know; they've been very tight-lipped about the whole thing," Erin Henson, a spokeswoman in the Maryland Department of Transportation, said late yesterday. "There's only the speculation that they wouldn't ask everyone down there to say someone else got the money."

The announcement, coming in the eleventh hour of the Clinton administration, surprised some who said U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater had informed them earlier that a decision was being left to the Bush administration.

That word had spurred a new round of lobbying in recent weeks for the Maryland bid, which has been a strong favorite among seven candidates for the project.

"Maglev" trains rely on magnetic fields that float cars along friction-free guides at speeds of more than 300 mph. Such a train could reduce the trip between Washington and Baltimore to 16 minutes.

The project is viewed by its proponents as a possible solution to growing traffic congestionSome view it as a possible first step toward a maglev rail system that would extend up the East Coast. Maryland's plan calls for the train to travel between Camden Yards and Union Station in Washington with a stop at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Those named as finalists today will receive federal funds to go forward with research, including environmental impact studies. Maryland's $3.8 billion plan requires $950 million in federal grants, $500 million in state and local funds, and the rest from private investors.

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