WASHINGTON – Can you imagine whizzing from D.C. to Baltimore in just 15 minutes? If a business group has its way, you’ll be able to speed past the backed-up traffic on Interstate 95 aboard the super-fast magnetic levitation train.
Climbing aboard at D.C.’s Union Station, you’d barely have time to read your email before arriving in Baltimore.
“It’s the world’s fastest train, invented in America but deployed and developed in Japan,” says Wayne Rogers, CEO of Northeast Maglev, a D.C.-based company that hopes to build a superconducting magnetic levitation train in the Northeast corridor.
“You’d be able to go from Washington D.C. to BWI Airport in 8 minutes and you’d be in Baltimore in 15 minutes,” Rogers says.
Whooosh — the long-nosed, narrow, white and blue train can be see hurtling by at 311 mph on its demonstration track in Yamanashi, Japan. It levitates about 4 inches above its U-shaped, concrete, guide rail.
“Anyone who’s taken two magnets and put the opposite poles together has been able to push it using the magnetic force. So what superconductivity is is using a scientific process to make a very strong magnet … that’s able to propel a train,” Rogers says.
It’s actually not new technology. The Japanese have been developing the magnetic levitation train for the past 50 years and are currently building a line between Tokyo and Nagoya.
It wouldn’t be cheap to build. Rogers estimates the mostly underground D.C.-to- Baltimore leg would cost more than $10 billion.
Eager to showcase the technology and spur maglev projects worldwide, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently offered to have Japan pay half the cost of the D.C. to Baltimore system.
“I would say we can’t afford not to do it. If you look at the costs of congestion, it’s costing us about $14.5 billion just in the Northeast corridor,” says Rogers.
The Northeast Maglev company hopes eventually to extend the superfast train to New York City.
But the proposed project has its detractors.
“I’m not sure about the benefits,” says Ross Capon, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
Rather than moving passengers faster, Capon favors expanding the current rail system and improving the existing rail infrastructure.
“There’s a huge catalog of projects that need to be undertaken that would expand capacity and that would replace century old bridges and tunnels,” Capon says.
But Rogers says rail passengers want super-fast trains and the time will come when passengers will ride the magnetic levitation train between D.C. and Baltimore.
“Oh it’s more than an idea, and we believe if we can get all the pieces put in place this will be a reality within the next decade,” Rogers says.
See Northeast Maglev’s promotional video of how the train would work: