A proposed $10 billion project to construct a high-speed train between D.C. and Baltimore that could transport commuters in 15 minutes received some skepticism from Prince George’s County officials and residents.
The line would run through the county with only three stops in downtown D.C., the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Anne Arundel County and downtown Baltimore.
If approved, it would also become the fastest train in the country.
“How is this benefiting [Prince George’s County]? You have the nerve to ask us to want this when it’s really going to benefit D.C. and Baltimore,” said Jacqueline Taylor of Landover Hills, whose house stands about a half-mile east of a proposed train line. “You’re just disrupting our community.”
A group known as the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR) sponsors the project with a $27.8 million federal grant for the state of Maryland to oversee an environmental impact study and public comment sessions.
On Tuesday, dozens of people attended an open house at Laurel High School hosted by the Maryland Department of Transportation, the agency that will receive written and verbal comments from residents and help oversee the environmental process.
According to a document from the rapid-rail group, the transportation vehicle formally called the superconducting magnetic levitation train has been used and created in other countries for more than 50 years. The technology of the train, which estimates to travel at 311 miles per hour, comes from Japan with most of the funding coming from that country and the federal government.
In terms of noise, the train doesn’t use wheels, rails or diesel engines — major contributors to train noise, according to BWRR. In addition, some of the line would run underground.
Two of the three routes studied stretch about 40 miles along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and another near an Amtrak track line.
As residents such as Taylor and William Dixson examined large maps on tables in the multipurpose room, they wondered whether the line would run through their properties or, worse, claim their properties through eminent domain.
“I’ve heard that a number of times. For most of those people, the train is not going directly through their homes,” said Kisha Brown, community and external affairs director for BWRR. “This is the time period where people can get that background … in what is the process and what the process is now.”
Tuesday marked the last public meeting of the year in Prince George’s as the Federal Railroad Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation continue to evaluate potential impacts.
The last public session scheduled for this year will take place Wednesday in Baltimore.
A draft document on an environmental analysis could be released in the spring, with another round of meetings during that time and a final report and decision in two years.
There’s also a possibility to expand the high-speed train line from to New York City, with the commute between there and D.C. only an hour on a line dubbed the “Northeast Corridor.”
Gov. Larry Hogan has expressed his support for the project, which BWRR claims would reduce vehicular traffic, create 1,500 jobs annually statewide and reduce 76,000 tons of carbon monoxide a year.
In the meantime, County Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-District 1) handed out letters to encourage residents to call their federal and state legislators.
“You need to tell Larry Hogan, ‘You’re running for re-election next year, you’re not going to if you push this train through here,’” Lehman said. “There’s no benefits for Prince George’s County. There’s a lot of neighborhoods that would be negatively impacted.”