The US Department of Transportation has awarded a $27.8 million grant to investigate the construction of a high-speed maglev rail line between Washington and Baltimore, according to Maryland governor Larry Hogan. The funds will support an ongoing effort by the private sector to bring maglev trains to the northeast of America, although the allotted money is only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion estimated total cost for a 40-mile Washington-Baltimore track. Maglev technology uses magnets to levitate train carriages inches about the track for frictionless travel, with trains reaching speeds of more than 300 miles an hour.
Japan wants to export maglev and has promised financial backing
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the $27.8 million in funding will be used for planning and engineering analysis as well as environmental and safety reviews. Private groups including the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail will supply additional funds, with the Japanese government also expected to contribute substantial investment. Japan's expertise in maglev is well known, and the country sees its high-speed rail systems as an export opportunity, with the American Northeast Corridor providing a showcase for the technology.
"We are very pleased to see this funding announced," said Japanese Ambassador Kenichirō Sasae in a press statement. "Working with the United States Government, the State of Maryland and Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail, we will prove that this cutting-edge Japanese technology will be a great asset to the busy Northeast Corridor." If the Washington-Baltimore line is completed it would reduce travel time between the two cities to just 15 minutes. However, if the plans go ahead then there are still a multitude of challenges for maglev's American backers, including acquiring rights-of-way for every mile of track and the challenge of future funding.