Amid the hype around plans for a high-speed Maglev train that would shuttle passengers from Baltimore to Washington D.C. in 15 minutes, hundreds of residents from Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties are less than thrilled about the prospect of a train moving at hundreds of miles per hour through their towns. Tonight in Annapolis, they’ll protest to make that clear.
The Citizens Against the Superconducting Maglev group has planned a rally on Lawyers Mall outside the State House in Annapolis, from 6 to 8 p.m. The group includes residents from Bowie, Greenbelt, Linthicum, Odenton and other towns located along two proposed routes for Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail’s planned maglev train.
The Federal Railroad Administration, which is conducting an environmental impact study with the Maryland Department of Transportation and other state agencies, narrowed down a list of potential routes for the train from three to two last week. Both would run directly east or west of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Construction on the project could begin in 2020, and would take between five and seven years, Rogers has said.
For Dennis Brady and hundreds of others, the proposed train represents a boondoggle that taxpayers will pay for in the event that it doesn’t prove to be profitable.
“The biggest concern we have deals with the economics of it,” said Brady, a former Bowie councilman who chairs the Citizens Against the Superconducting Maglev group. “It’s not a NIMBY issue–that is, it doesn’t matter which route we’re talking about–we honestly believe that if it is built, it will not be profitable and it will require subsidies…The taxpayers will be picking up the bill.”
Residents also worry about noise affecting neighborhoods close to the routes. Rogers told members of the House of Delegates’ Environment and Transportation Committee on Feb. 1 that “noise isn’t an issue” with the high-speed train. The project would include installing sound barriers that would reduce the amount of noise generated by the trains to a threshold meeting federal guidelines, he said.
But neighbors argue Rogers underestimated how effective sound mitigation measures like a barrier wall would actually be. Owen Kelley, a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, even authored a paper for the group arguing Rogers’ calculations about noise mitigation in his testimony don’t add up.
Brady said they also believe the environmental impact study process, a federally required step for the project through which agencies ask the public to chime in, has been less than transparent.
According to Brady, the alleged lack of communication with the public was actually how the citizens’ opposition group started: Two founding members attended a public scoping meeting about the Maglev project in Bowie last April and “were horrified” to see that only 16 people attended.
“It was totally under the radar,” he said.
A friend asked him to sit in on their meetings, and in August, they put him in charge of organizing. Through outreach to other opposition groups in Greenbelt, Glenarden, Linthicum and other Maryland towns near the B-W Parkway, they got as many as 800 people out to the second round of scoping meetings in late 2017, which made headlines.
The Northeast Maglev said in a statement emailed to Baltimore Fishbowl Monday night that it remains “committed to maintaining an open dialogue with communities in the region and will continue to hold meetings throughout the life of this project to ensure public feedback is considered before any project details are finalized.”
The statement noted Maglev participated in more than 30 public meetings about the Maglev project in 2017 alone, and set up numerous civic meetings and briefings with elected officials and county planning and development offices.
Brady said Monday morning that he hoped the turnout for the Annapolis rally would be similar to that of the public meetings from late 2017. He estimated at least 300 people would attend the protest, though he said he was “hoping to fill Lawyers Mall.”
This story has been updated with comment from The Northeast Maglev.
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