Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Baltimore–Washington SCMAGLEV Project?
The SCMAGLEV (superconducting magnetic levitation) Project, is a proposed high-speed rail line between Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, with an intermediate stop at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. Ultimately, the system will be extended to New York City. SCMAGLEV is the most advanced high-speed ground transportation system in the world. Traveling at a speed of 500 km/h (311mph) will enable a 15-minute trip between Washington, DC and Baltimore and a one-hour trip between Washington, DC and New York.
- What is the SCMAGLEV system and how does the SCMAGLEV compare to other high-speed ground transportation systems?
The SCMAGLEV is the fastest ground transportation system in the world, having been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records for its speed record of 375 mph set in 2015. Unlike conventional railway systems, the SCMAGLEV accelerates and decelerates not by force generated by a mechanical motor, but through a magnetic force generated between the onboard superconducting magnets and electromagnetic coils in a guideway.
- Is it safe to ride on the SCMAGLEV system?
The SCMAGLEV is one of the safest transportation systems in the world. The train travels in a completely dedicated guideway, thereby eliminating the possibility of collisions with freight or other types of passenger vehicles. Additionally, the U-shaped design of the guideway itself prevents derailments. The dedicated system approach is based upon the Tokaido Shinkansen “bullet train” operation in Japan, which has not experienced any passenger or crew fatalities or injuries due to train accidents such as derailments or collisions during its 50+ years of service.
- Is the SCMAGLEV system ready for commercial application?
Yes. A 26.6-mile commercial SCMAGLEV line is already operating. To date, SCMAGLEV vehicles have traveled over 1 million miles and safely transported hundreds of thousands of passengers.
- How much will a ticket cost?
We expect ticket prices to be competitive with those of express rail services for similar trips on the corridor.
- How much will construction cost and how will it be financed?
The cost of construction is dependent on the route selected and the construction methodology chosen to implement that decision. These route alternatives will be determined as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conducted under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The cost of construction will be covered by a combination of federal and other sources of financing.
- How will this impact neighborhoods and the environment?
NEPA is the process that federal agencies follow to analyze the potential consequences of proposed projects on the environment, engage the public and document the analysis to ensure informed decision-making. It is an umbrella law that includes the EIS that will be made public by the Maryland Transit Administration for review and comment. As part of the EIS process, the range of impacts, including train noise, vibration, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act are evaluated.
- How does the SCMAGLEV system operate in snowy or rainy conditions?
The SCMAGLEV system can utilize a variety of snow mitigation and removal measures, including, for example, hoods and a warm water sprinkler system as is used on the bullet trains. Extreme weather conditions will be addressed in the EIS as part of the emergency management plan.
- How loud is the SCMAGLEV?
Unlike traditional trains, the SCMAGLEV does not use steel wheels and rails, catenaries, or diesel engines, three of the major factors that contribute to train noise. At high speeds, the SCMAGLEV levitates using electromagnetic forces, and has no contact with its guideway. These factors keep the SCMAGLEV’s noise impacts to a minimum. Elevated viaduct sections of the train will have sound walls to mitigate the air displacement sound resulting from the train’s high speed. Tunneled sections of the route produce no noise at ground level.
- Does the SCMAGLEV system generate perceptible ground vibration?
No, the SCMAGLEV system does not generate perceptible ground vibration. According to measurements taken during a rigorous environmental study in Japan, ground vibration generated by the SCMAGLEV is so low that it is not perceptible to humans.
- Are the magnetic fields generated by the SCMAGLEV dangerous?
SCMAGLEV has been approved as safe for humans and the environment, meeting strict magnetic field exposure guidelines recommended by World Health Organization (WHO). As part of the EIS process and the FRA’s review for safe train operation, magnetic fields and potential impacts will be evaluated in the EIS and by the FRA’s Office of Safety.
- What about the land needed to build the project? How will the project affect landowners?
BWRR respects and values the private property rights of landowners. We are committed to a strategy that emphasizes the importance of identifying and using land in a manner that will minimize any negative impacts to landowners during both construction and operation. For operational purposes, much of the route will be in deep tunnels underground. Surface impacts, whether below ground or above ground, will be designed to minimize impacts. If the project necessitates the need for access to additional land, BWRR will work closely with landowners and communities on finding land use solutions that work for everyone.
- Why can’t the alignment be 100% underground?
A requirement of the grant is that the project must be financially feasible. The higher the percentage of tunnel – which is about twice as expensive as elevated viaduct – the less financially viable. A balance of tunnel and viaduct will best ensure financial viability.
- What is the relationship between BWRR and The Northeast Maglev (TNEM)?
BWRR is the project developer whereas TNEM is a promotional entity for the project. BWRR and TNEM work closely together to coordinate their respective activities and areas of expertise.
- Who will operate the SCMAGLEV?
BWRR, a U.S. owned and operated company, will operate the SCMAGLEV based upon the standards and procedures developed by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central). JR Central is a publicly traded, private train operator in Japan, and is the owner and operator of the SCMAGLEV system. JR Central provides vital technical advice to help advance the deployment of the SCMAGLEV system in the U.S. In addition, JR Central operates the Tokaido Shinkansen “bullet train” between Tokyo and Osaka, the safest, busiest and most traveled high-speed rail line in the world. This operation carries 150 million people every year, utilizing 100,000 trains with an average delay per year of 20 seconds.
Clearing Up Misconceptions
- Maps show massive 1000-foot wide alignments for the SCMAGLEV. There are thousands of houses shown in these paths!
Some privately-created unofficial maps show the potential width of the path as 1000 feet. It is important to only refer to official maps created by the NEPA process. Other maps may have misleading and inaccurate information. In actuality, the width of the SCMAGLEV’s above ground viaduct structure is approximately 46 feet. During construction, the contractor’s temporary work zone will be 72 feet wide.
- Without a stop between BWI Airport and Washington, the communities in between get no benefit. Why should they support this project?
Studies have shown that all communities along the route – and all of Maryland – will reap economic benefits resulting from construction and permanent jobs associated with operations and spin-off industries. Investments in the local communities as well as partnerships between higher education institutions opens up opportunities in new ways. Improved mobility will also spur enhanced economic activity. The eventual extension to New York will provide access to over four million jobs in less than an hour commute. People won’t be forced to move to take a higher paying job and can continue to live in their neighborhood of choice. In addition, significantly diminished emissions resulting from fewer vehicle miles traveled, will result in cleaner air shared by all. While the SCMAGLEV stops may not be convenient for residents within the middle section of the route, the SCMAGLEV system will divert auto traffic between Baltimore and Washington, reducing congestion. Over the next thirty years, traffic congestion in the corridor will continue to worsen, requiring more travel options.
- This train is only for elites. Where will SCMAGLEV riders come from?
The need for high speed in the Northeast Corridor has been recognized for decades. We believe there is a pent-up demand for safe, reliable high-speed travel for all manner of trip purposes. Market research shows that the travel time savings offered by SCMAGLEV service are highly valued across all travel purposes and income segments, including current users of commuter rail in the corridor.
- I’ve read that this train will destroy tens of thousands of houses, as well as churches, schools, and important historical sites.
At this stage of the study, a final preferred route has not been determined. As the study progresses, the routes will be narrowed down, and a detailed list of impacts will be identified. There are not tens of thousands of houses, schools or businesses along any of the routes being studied by MTA. An important part of studying potential routes is to minimize the community impacts, while maintaining an economically viable project.
- SCMAGLEV is not financially feasible because it’s so expensive. It will just become a burden on state taxpayers.
Independent ridership and revenue studies validate the financial feasibility of the project, which substantiated that operating and maintenance costs are projected to be completely offset by revenues. These assumptions will be validated in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Additionally, no state money will be used on this project. The funding for the environmental study was supplied by the federal government through the Maglev Deployment Program, with matching funds from the private sector.
- The SCMAGLEV is an unproven technology, how do we know it will work here?
The SCMAGLEV is a fully proven system. It was developed over a period of more than 50 years and has undergone extensive reviews and evaluations by the Japanese government. The Japanese government completed its equivalent of an EIS for the system in 2014. The SCMAGLEV is currently operating and is being extended to connect Tokyo and Nagoya.
- It would be cheaper and have fewer community impacts to just upgrade the existing Northeast Corridor to high-speed rail.
When the Northeast Corridor was built over a hundred years ago, it was not built with high speed in mind. High operating speeds require wider curves, so upgrading the existing corridor to true high-speed rail would involve building new surface-level alignments, and will therefore still have impacts to communities along the alignment. We believe that if a significant investment should be made to our region’s rail service, it should with be the latest and fastest technology.