The Prince George’s County Council approved a resolution Tuesday to oppose a proposed high-speed maglev train project slated to run through parts of the county between D.C. and Baltimore.
The council made a formal vote ahead of a Monday deadline to submit its written opposition to the Federal Railroad Administration, which leads the environmental review for the project assisted by the Maryland Transit Administration.
“I vote with great enthusiasm. Yes,” council Chair Calvin Hawkins II said after his vote.
The resolution recommends a “no-build” option, saying that doing so would have a “significant negative impact on the health, safety and welfare” of residents and business owners.
A draft environmental impact statement estimates the cost to be at least $13.8 billion. The project encompasses a 40-mile stretch below ground, with a nearly nine-mile above-ground stretch mainly running along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Prince George’s.
Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR) proposes to build the superconducting magnetic levitation train system under a final environmental impact study, with a goal of not taking away any homes. BWRR has secured about $5 billion from Japan, where a maglev train operates.
The FRA could grant final approval to a selected route next year.
The train would travel up to 300 miles per hour and take only 15 minutes to get from northwest D.C. to Baltimore. Riders could travel from the District to New York City in one hour.
Communities and municipalities in Prince George’s potentially affected by such a project include Bladensburg, Colmar Manor and Laurel.
About three stations would operate in D.C., Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City, according to the draft report.
The project “will cause a lack of usage access to Prince Georgians bearing the burden of the incoming infrastructure without being able to utilize it for transportation allowing zero access points from within county boundaries as a rider,” according to the county resolution.
A National Capital Planning Commission report from May 6 echoes some of the council’s and environmental groups’ concerns. The commission noted the project would affect wildlife, parks and federal properties in the county including Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and James A. Rowley Training Center in Laurel, which is managed by the Secret Service.
“The proposed project would provide for profit transportation for a relatively small market with a heavy reliance on the use of federal property,” the commission document reads. “There would be a wide range of federal research, security, and other functions that would be adversely impacted in the area, as well as a huge cost to irreplaceable parkland and natural resources.”
Council member Mel Franklin (D-At-Large) of Upper Marlboro voted to abstain. He submitted a May 13 letter to the transit administration laying out some commitments BWRR should make to the county.
Some of Franklin’s recommendations:
• Commit half of 40% in construction spending and work on minority-owned and women-owned businesses based in Prince George’s.
• Establish and fund a workforce training and hiring program for the maglev project with Bowie State University and Prince George’s Community College.
• Create an annual $2 million community investment initiative each year such as scholarships for minority high school seniors in the public schools, food assistance and for at least one county-based, minority-led nonprofit organization to tutor and mentor low-income children.
“While innovation and public transit are important priorities, Prince George’s County is a large, diverse, majority-African American county on the cusp of becoming an economic destination for the world and should be more than just a pass-through for the [maglev] project,” Franklin wrote. “In light of this period of national reflection on equity for communities of color, I believe the aforementioned commitments recommended in this public comment would significantly increase the public benefits of the [maglev] project for Prince George’s County residents.”
Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm in northwest D.C., surveyed 600 Prince George’s residents between April 1-5, finding that more than 68% of respondents supported the maglev project while 19% opposed it.
The poll of residents who are likely to vote in the 2022 general election found that roughly 72% of Blacks support the project, compared to 15% in opposition. About 62% of whites backed the project, while 20% objected.
Among the women polled, 68% were in favor of the project and 20% against it. For men, 69% support it, compared to 17% who oppose it.
The survey was commissioned by Northeast Maglev, a sister company of BWWR.
“The survey paints a clear picture of overwhelming public support for construction and operation of the [project],” the pollsters wrote. “The results are directly counter to the perception created by some elected officials in their public statements.”
The poll has a margin of error of 4%
To submit written comments by Monday, go to https://bit.ly/3fp1zV1.