The U.S. Transportation Department has awarded nearly $28 million to conduct studies on building a high-speed rail line that would carry passengers between Washington and Baltimore in about 15 minutes, according to Maryland officials.
The money will support private-sector efforts to bring magnetic-levitation trains to the region as part of a larger vision for building a maglev system along the Northeast Corridor.
Maryland’s Department of Transportation and the state’s Economic Development Corporation applied for the federal funds in April, with an understanding that the Japanese government and Baltimore-
Washington Rapid Rail, a private group, would provide significant investments for the project.
“The ability to travel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in only 15 minutes will be absolutely transformative, not just for these two cities, but for our entire state,” Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement.
Japan is one of the first countries to develop and adopt maglev trains, which use magnetic forces to accelerate trains smoothly at speeds of up to 375 mph.
Hogan and Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn rode Japan’s 27-mile Yamanashi maglev line during a trade mission in Asia this past spring, promising afterward that they would work to bring the technology to the state.
Building a 40-mile maglev line between Baltimore and Washington is expected to cost at least $10 billion.
According to media reports in Japan, the Japanese government has pledged $5 billion in financial backing for a Maryland line, and a Japanese train operator has said it would not charge licensing fees for the technology. The remaining funds would come from public and private sources.
Maryland requested $1.7 billion in federal funding for the maglev project in 2010, but the Federal Railroad Administration rejected the bid, declaring it “not ready.”
Japan has been promoting its maglev and other high-speed-train technology as part of a plan to bolster the nation’s economy, which is the world’s third-largest.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pressed California to choose Japanese companies to build a $68 billion high-speed, non-maglev train system between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Additionally, the country has tried to sell Japanese trains to Texas for a link between Dallas and Houston.
Kenichiro Sasae, the Japanese ambassador to the United States, applauded the funding announcement in a statement Saturday.
“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,” he wrote.