Washington company continues lobbying for maglev line in Northeast

February 24, 2013

The Northeast Maglev, the privately owned District company that last year began lobbying to develop a high-speed rail system in the Northeast, is continuing efforts to develop a maglev line that would connect D.C. to New York in 60 minutes.

Trains that rely on magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology, typically travel faster than traditional rail, gliding just above the track using magnetic propulsion. The only commercial maglev lines are in Aichi, Japan, and Shanghai. Shanghai’s maglev train runs at an average of 139 miles per hour, compared to Acela Express, which runs at an average of 84 miles per hour.

Previous attempts by regional transportation agencies to explore a maglev system in the Northeast were stymied by lack of support from lawmakers and funding shortfalls. In 2001, the Maryland Department of Transportation, the District of Columbia, Baltimore, Baltimore County and the Maryland Transit Administration formed the Baltimore-Washington Maglev Project. The coalition competed for Federal Railroad Administration consideration to develop a 39-mile maglev line linking Baltimore, BWI Airport and Union Station in D.C. But the project, which in 2007 was estimated to cost $5.1 billion, stalled because it was costly and lacked legislative support.

Northeast Maglev paid Washington lobbyists more than $500,000 last year to lobby on legislation that could impact high-speed rail, including bills that would identify potential high-speed rail corridors in the United States and provide funding for high-speed rail technology.

The bills — HR-7: American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 and HR-5972: Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations for FY 2013 — did not pass in the 112th Congress and have not been re-introduced in the current Congress. The company also lobbied on the transportation bill that President Obama signed last July, HR-4348: The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which includes magnetic levitation as one of the transportation systems eligible to receive federal aid.

The Northeast Maglev paid four outside lobby firms a total of $515,560 in 2012: $330,000 to DLA Piper, $110,000 to American Defense International, $70,560 to Commonwealth Research Associates and $5,000 to TCK International, according to lobbying reports filed with the Senate.

The company declined to comment on the efforts or whether executives have met with local transit officials, saying only through a spokeswoman that it is “continuing to make progress toward bringing the Northeast Corridor the benefits of the world’s fastest and most advanced train.”

Catherine Ho covers law and lobbying for Capital Business, which she joined in 2011. She was previously a reporter at the Daily Journal in Los Angeles, covering LA civil courts and labor and employment law.
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