High-Speed MAGLEV Train Hopes to Build Baltimore Station in Cherry Hill

| August 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

Northeast Maglev, the company aiming to bring the Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV) to the northeast corridor of the United States, aims to build its Baltimore station in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of South Baltimore. Phase I of the project will start downtown in Washington, D.C., make a stop at Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport, and then arrive in Baltimore City.

A 36-mile trip from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore at 311 miles per hour (mph) will take 15 minutes. Future phases of SCMAGLEV will take the train from Washington, D.C. to New York City in an hour and Baltimore to New York City in 45 minutes. There will be stops along the way in Wilmington (DE) and Philadelphia, as well as at the major airports along the corridor.

The project is currently under review by federal, state, and local agencies as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Maryland Department of Transportation-Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT-MTA) prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is expected to be completed in early 2022 and Northeast Maglev hopes to begin construction in 2022. Phase I is expected to be seven years of continuous construction.

The cost of construction will be covered by a combination of federal, Japanese government, and private funding. Northeast Maglev Chairman and CEO Wayne Rogers told SouthBMore.com the cost of the Phase I will be between $10 billion and $20 billion depending on the exact route and recommendations of the EIS.

While Northeast Maglev is instrumental in the promotion of the project, construction will be led by developer Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail.

SCMAGLEV is considering two sites for a Baltimore station – one in Cherry Hill and one next to Camden Station Downtown. Rogers said the Cherry Hill location would be more affordable. He said a station at Camden would cost $500 million more because it would need to be underground, which would require building a large hole in the ground and then covering it. This would likely also require taking down properties in the area that could be part of the Baltimore Convention Center or Federal Reserve. Tunneling an additional mile to get Phase I open would also cost “several hundred million” dollars.

Cherry Hill would allow SCMAGLEV to build an above-ground station, and build adjacent offices, garages, and ancillary facilities. But, this will require the acquisition of industrial properties along Cherry Hill Rd. Rogers said they must receive the EIS before they can begin acquisitions and getting rights of way. 70 to 75 percent of the 36 miles between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. will be in a tunnel up to 150 ft. underground and a large portion of the viaducts above ground will be on federal property.

Northeast Maglev likes the fact that Cherry Hill is on I-295 and close to I-95 and 695. Rogers talked about how someone coming from the highways or south of Downtown might spend 20 minutes in traffic on the last mile between Cherry Hill and Camden Station. He noted those connecting to Downtown from the SCMAGLEV or coming from points north could take a Light Rail or Uber to the station, and that there will likely be a shuttle between Downtown and the proposed SCMAGLEV station.

The Cherry Hill station would also be adjacent to the 43-acre Westport waterfront parcel. This parcel is owned by Plank Industries and was once the site of a planned $1.2-billion transit-oriented, mixed-use development by Turner Development. The site is next to the Westport Light Rail Station.

SCMAGLEV will need a portion of the Westport waterfront site for Phase II of the project. Rogers said since the SCMAGLEV runs at 311 mph, it can’t just dive back underground and that it has to do it gradually. The Westport parcel would be used to gradually get SCMAGLEV to a tunnel that would pass through Downtown Baltimore and travel to Wilmington. Rogers said a mixed-used development can still take place at Westport, but SCMAGLEV needs a parcel of the site at its western edge adjacent to existing Light Rail and CSX tracks.

According to the FAQ on Northeast Maglev’s site, a viaduct when completed is 46 ft. wide and needs a 72 ft. wide work zone to build it. Most portions of the Westport watefront parcel appear to be deeper than 400 ft. according to Google Maps.

“We have talked to the owners of Westport and they are aware of the plans,” said Rogers. “Yes it can be developed, but there is an impact.”

Plank Industries owner Kevin Plank is on the Northeast Maglev advisory board.

Rogers added when talking about Westport, “It will be attractive to be so close to a station. When completed, that can get you to D.C. in 15 minutes or could get you to New York in 45 minutes.”

Northeast Maglev sees a boom in investment for Cherry Hill with a station there. The project has letters of support from the Cherry Hill Development Corporation, Westport Neighborhood Association, Westport Community Economic & Development Corporation, and District 10 Councilman Ed Reisinger, who represents the area.

Last Week Northeast Maglev announced it had the support of Eastern Atlantic State Regional Council of Northeast Carpenters.

The station in Washington, D.C. would be built underground at Mount Vernon Square near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Rogers said the cost to ride the SCMAGLEV could be $1/mile, making a round trip from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore $72.

In regards to the cost, Rogers also noted that it costs $.50 a mile to drive a car and then it may cost $20 per day to park in Washington, D.C. He also sees the potential for companies paying for employees to ride SCMAGLEV.

Rogers sees big ridership from BWI, which has 24 million airplane passengers a year . It will be an eight-minute SCMAGLEV ride to Washington and a five-minute ride into Baltimore. He thinks this gives BWI an edge over Dulles International Airport for passengers ending up in Washington, D.C. He also sees this connection as a boost for the area around BWI and for Downtown Baltimore hotels as passengers could more easily stay Downtown when they have a flight out of BWI the next day.

Rogers noted a cab ride from BWI to Washington, D.C. can cost $100.

The MARC Train currently connects Perryville to Washington, D.C. with many stops including Baltimore. Rogers said SCMAGLEV will be “10 times better” than the MARC because there will be trains every 10 minutes as opposed to every 30 minutes or an hour. MARC trains from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. take 55 to 70 minutes depending on the station and line.

The Northeast MAGLEV website says upgrading the existing Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure is not feasible because its curves do not allow for the 311 mph speeds and the current track only allows six percent of the alignment to reach speeds of 150 mph.

While SCMAGLEV will be costly, Rogers compared it to the building of I-95 and said it would benefit future generations. He noted it would put 50 million people within an hour of each other.

SCMAGLEV is projected to create 100,000 construction jobs and more than 7,000 permanent jobs.

Screenshot of map showing the impacted area in Cherry Hill and Westport

Overhead screenshot of the area from Google Maps

SouthBMore.com photo of Camden Station 

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.