Abell Salutes: Maglev-Maryland

February 2002 / Salutes / Community Development

For keeping an eye on the prize—Baltimore to Washington in 20 minutes.

The vision has been there for a generation: a high-speed train that would make the trip from Baltimore to BWI and on to Washington in 20 minutes, and full of the promise of unimaginable consequences. Throughout its life on the national agenda, the train and the system have been known as Maglev (short for magnetic levitation), and its feasibility is being continuously debated. But for Baltimore, the Maglev debate has been about how to make Maglev happen for Baltimore City.

Beginning in 1991 when Senator Mikulski garnered a $500,000 award to Maryland to prepare a feasibility study of Maglev, the project was freshly invigorated. Quick to see its potential, a consortium of Baltimore elected officials and business leaders aspired to position the Baltimore-D.C. Maglev as a leading contender. To promote the idea, Maglev-Maryland was born.

With renewed Congressional interest in Maglev, two years ago the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded funding to seven potential corridors nationwide as part of an effort to determine the most promising location for demonstration. As a result of the competition, the U.S. Department of Transportation chose Baltimore to Washington as one of two regions to complete an Environmental Impact Statement and preliminary engineering. (The other region chosen is Pittsburgh to Greensburg, PA.)

Only one region will be chosen for demonstration sometime in 2003.

According to Phyllis Wilkins, director of Maglev-Maryland, “We were organized to watch, to learn, to make our influence felt, to raise money, to work closely with the Maryland delegation in Congress and with the Maryland Department of Transportation, all leading to our one objective—to bring Maglev to the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and sooner rather than later.”

Their work has paid off—so far.

The selection of Baltimore caps a 10-year history of energetic and skillful administration by Governor Schaefer, Lieutenant Governor Kennedy, Mayors Schmoke and O’Malley; by executive director Phyllis Wilkins; by Don Hutchinson and Wally Pinkard, wearing several hats; by Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes, Congressmen Cardin, Ehrlich, and Cummings. They all merit, singly and collectively, a salute from the Abell Foundation for keeping an eye on the prize—Baltimore to Washington in less than 20 minutes, and on the same speeded-up schedule, Washington to Baltimore, the first leg of D.C. to New York.