Many oppose maglev plan

State holds briefing for residents on details of project affecting area

`What benefit is it giving us?'

Meeting is last of seven before report is prepared on environmental impact

Howard County

May 01, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

As he handed out anti-maglev train fliers at the door to Murray Hill Middle School in southern Howard County last night, Fred Ganong said he thought the train would be perfect - for the Los Angeles-Las Vegas run.

The vast majority of the more than 300 people who dropped in during the 3 1/2 -hour Maryland Transit Administration briefing last night at the school seemed to share his opposition to a maglev train in the county.

"It's 30 yards from our house," said Roy Tarash of Tall Window Way in Huntington, in Columbia's Kings Contrivance village. His wife, Debbie, said they are worried about their property values and the noise.

"We're already surrounded by the noise of I-95," Debbie Tarash said. "What benefit is it giving us?" She echoed recent objections of most of the county's elected officials.

The meeting, the last in a series of seven held by the state, is part of a long process the federal government is sponsoring to choose a place to try out the expensive, experimental magnetic levitation technology. The train rides on air, propelled by electrically charged magnets, and is "whisper quiet," according to a brochure.

But the clutch of politicians, builders and residents of Howard's southeastern corner were not buying that last night - even if it would help attract the 2012 Olympics.

"It's in our back yard," said Kathy Bishop, who lives with her husband Bill on Springwater Path, just east of Interstate 95 and south of Route 32.

"We've been up here since '88," Bill Bishop said, and the I-95 traffic noise has increased since.

"Right now, it's hard to live with," he said. "We're really irritated because they wouldn't put up sound barriers." He was peering at glossy color posters showing a sleek train riding high atop concrete pillar rails.

Henry Kay, director of planning for the MTA, said the written comments of people who attended will be counted, read and analyzed as the state prepares its environmental impact report on the project. He said meetings held at train stations in Baltimore and Washington mainly drew supporters, while those in suburbs the train might traverse have drawn mainly opponents.

The Baltimore-Washington area is competing with Pittsburgh for federal money to help build the $3.5 billion maglev train, which would connect the two cities - with a stop at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

If the train is built in Maryland, the state must pay $500 million of the cost. The 240-mph train would ride an elevated track for about half the 40-mile route, engineers said, and would carry mainly BWI passengers, tourists and convention-bound passengers, with about 20 percent commuters. The one-way fare would be $26, and the train would remove about 30,000 vehicle trips a day from area roadways, state officials estimated.

Anne Arundel County residents in Linthicum and near the two possible routes there - one along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the other following the Amtrak rail line, also strongly oppose the project.

Most Howard officials joined the critics last month after learning that the third possible route - along I-95 - would disrupt communities from Dorsey, around Route 175, to the huge new Rouse Co. development called Emerson along Route 216.

State officials are scheduled to narrow the choice from three to two routes by next month. The project is supported by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a gubernatorial candidate, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, whose political career began with a grass-roots anti-highway campaign in East Baltimore.

Del. John A. Giannetti Jr., a Laurel Democrat, supports the train as a boon to BWI, but other officials are opposed, arguing that maglev is far to expensive for what it would achieve. The Rouse Co. is also opposed.

Last night's meeting was scheduled after county politicians complained that the MTA was ignoring Howard, although the I-95 maglev route would affect county neighborhoods.

County Executive James N. Robey asked for the public meeting, but he has not taken a position on the train project.

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