Japan offers $2M for Baltimore-DC 'maglev' high-speed train study
- Japan has made a $2 million commitment to fund a feasibility study for a high-speed, magnetic levitation train between Baltimore and Washington, DC, The Baltimore Sun reported.
- The Japanese contribution, which came after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Japan signed a trade agreement Wednesday, brings total investment in the estimated $10 billion rail plan to $30 million. The federal government already contributed $28 million toward engineering and environmental studies for the project in November.
- Magnetic levitation trains, or "maglev," use magnets to carry a train above a cushion of air at speeds of up to 350 mph. If completed, the high-speed train could transport commuters from Baltimore into the District in approximately 15 minutes.
This move is just the latest demonstration of U.S. interest in high-speed rail, as the country lags behind European countries already embracing the fast transit. The most high-profile high-speed project in the country is California's bullet train, even though it has needed to overcome cost overruns, delays and public relations challenges since the planning stages. In fact, many California taxpayers are so frustrated with the project that it spurred one resident to personally pay for an initiative that may very well require voter approval for any state project costing more than $2 billion.
Experts say another factor in the lack of successful bullet train projects in the U.S. is the fact that Americans might not be ready to embrace high-speed rail. Attorney Anthony Leones told Construction Dive last month that U.S. residents love their automobiles, and in many parts of the country there is no culture of mass transit. He added that despite well-known infrastructure problems, American roads are in much better shape than those in other areas of the world, keeping the sense of urgency for alternative transportation low.
And then there are the regulatory barriers. U.S. Buy America regulations prevent companies from importing materials for federally funded transportation projects. There is a small exception for "rolling stock" items like train cars, but those still have to be more than 60% American-made with the final assembly taking place in the U.S. This issue threw a wet blanket over plans for a high-speed rail system between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, as developers planned to import the cars from China. Because these types of cars are not readily available in the U.S., the Japan-Maryland team will need to figure out a way to overcome this potential obstacle.
- Washington Business Journal Japan gives $2M for Washington-Baltimore high-speed train feasibility study
- Baltimore Sun Japan pledges $2 million for Maryland bullet train feasibility
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