WHAT IS THE BALTIMORE–WASHINGTON SUPERCONDUCTING MAGNETIC LEVITATION (SCMAGLEV) PROJECT? +The Baltimore-Washington SCMAGLEV Project is a proposed high-speed ground transportation line between Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C., with an intermediate stop at Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Thurgood Marshall Airport. Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR), the private company proposing the system, is aiming for an optimum speed of over 300 miles per hour that would enable an approximate 15-minute travel time between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. The system would require a guideway (track) and three stations, a rolling stock storage depot, maintenance facility, power substations, ventilation plants, and an operations facility.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE PROJECT? +
The SCMAGLEV Project is currently the subject of an environmental study required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NEPA Team for the SCMAGLEV Project is led by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and coordinated by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).
As of September 2017, the NEPA study is in its early stages. Feedback from communities and stakeholders is welcomed throughout the process.
No alternatives have been chosen yet, and all alignment options are preliminary and subject to change. The NEPA process is designed to allow engagement with members of the public, particularly in the affected region and the community, to analyze the impacts of the proposed action and to determine which alternative best meets the purpose and need of the project. Please read on for further details about NEPA milestones.
WHO IS FUNDING CONSTRUCTION OF THIS SCMAGLEV SYSTEM? +
No construction funding has been allocated for the project at this time.
The current $27.8 million federal grant is to study environmental impacts and perform preliminary engineering. The NEPA study stems from a congressional mandate to examine the feasibility and environmental consequences of a magnetic levitation system.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO CONSTRUCT AN SCMAGLEV SYSTEM BETWEEN BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON, D.C.? +
Rough construction estimates developed by BWRR at this early stage are $10 billion to $15 billion depending on the construction methodology, e.g. the proportion of higher cost tunneling versus elevates structure.
Detailed estimates will be developed as preliminary engineering progresses for the preferred alternative. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will document that information, along with anticipated ticket pricing, ridership projections, revenue estimates, maintenance and operations costs, and socio-economic and environmental justice factors.
The public will have additional opportunities to review on cost-related estimates during the outreach periods associated with later phases of the NEPA study.
HOW WILL THE PROJECT AFFECT LANDOWNERS? +
At this stage, it is too early to determine if or how the project will affect any landowners because a final alignment has not been determined.
A goal of the proposed project is to maximize the use of existing rights-of-way intended for transportation uses and to minimize impacts to local communities and environmental resources. FRA and MDOT will have additional details on these factors as the project progresses and with completion of the alternatives analysis.
Some alternative alignments will be eliminated from further study, and those alignments that are retained are likely to continue to evolve to minimize impacts on communities and environmental resources.
Property owners can get a better idea of potential right-of-way impacts by examining maps of the alternative alignments posted on the project website (www.bwmaglev.info) and at public meetings. It is important to note, however, that FRA will likely adjust and refine alignments based on public and stakeholder input during the NEPA process.
WHAT IS THE NEED FOR THE PROJECT? +
The NEPA Team for the SCMAGLEV Project, led by FRA and coordinated by MDOT, drafted a Purpose and Need Statement to address the following needs in the Baltimore-Washington region:
- Increasing population and employment
- Growing demands on the existing transportation network
- Inadequate capacity of the existing transportation network
- Increasing travel times
- Decreasing mobility
- Maintaining economic viability
WHAT IS THE PROJECT PURPOSE? +
The purpose of the NEPA study is to evaluate the safety and revenue-potential of a proposed high-speed ground transportation system that achieves the optimum operating speed of the SCMAGLEV technology, as well as the potential environmental effects of constructing and operating a such a system.
The SCMAGLEV Project aims to significantly reduce travel time to meet the demands of the Baltimore-Washington region. To achieve the operational and safety metrics needed for a SCMAGLEV system, the project would include:
- Infrastructure, vehicles, and operating procedures required for the SCMAGLEV system.
- An alignment which allows the highest practical speed that can be attained by SCMAGLEV technology at a given location, and which avoids the need for reduction in speed other than that imposed by the normal acceleration and braking around curves into and out of stations.
HAS AN ALIGNMENT BEEN SELECTED? +
The NEPA Team has made no decision regarding a Preferred Alternative alignment. FRA and MDOT are currently thoroughly evaluating a variety of alternative alignments. This includes ongoing coordination with the project stakeholders, regulatory and consulting agencies, the private company proponent, and members of the public.
FRA plans to identify a Preferred Alternative in the DEIS.
WHY NOT IMPROVE EXISTING TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE (SUCH AS MAJOR HIGHWAYS, AMTRAK, AND MARC)? +
The SCMAGLEV NEPA study stems from a specific federal statute mandating the study of magnetic levitation technology which identified the NEC and, in particular, the Baltimore-Washington, DC corridor. This study is focused on construction of an SCMAGLEV system between Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C. Analyzing and recommending other types of infrastructure improvements is beyond the scope of the congressional language.
As a part of the process, the environmental impact study will evaluate ridership, economic feasibility, and a “No Build Alternative” that weighs the absence of impacts if the system is not constructed against the potential loss of transportation and other benefits.
WHY MAGLEV TECHNOLOGY? +
In 2005, Congress passed the ‘Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act’, authorizing funding to study magnetic levitation transportation projects.
In March 2015, FRA cited "Congressional intent that the federal funds be used to directly advance and result in construction of a maglev project" in a Notice of Funding Availability and Solicitation of Applications for Magnetic Levitation Projects. Federal Register 80, no. 54 (March 20, 2015): 15053-15057 (hereafter referred to as NOFA).
On April 17, 2015, MDOT and the Maryland Department of Economic Development (MEDCO) submitted to FRA an application for funding in response to the NOFA that identified the project as:
- SCMAGLEV passenger rail service between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
- Federally designated high-speed transportation corridor using technology developed by the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) to be built and operated by the BWRR
WASN’T THERE A PREVIOUS MAGLEV PROJECT? WHAT HAPPENED WITH THAT EFFORT? +
The idea of using a high-speed maglev transportation system to link Washington DC and Baltimore dates back to the 1990s. In 2001, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a Record of Decision (ROD) following completion of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Maglev Deployment Program. The purpose of this action was to demonstrate Maglev technology by identifying a viable maglev project in the US, and assisting a public/private partnership with the planning, financing, construction, and operation of a project. As published in the ROD, FRA concluded that Maglev was an appropriate technology for use in new transportation options in Maryland and Pennsylvania and should be further studied at the project level.
In coordination with MDOT’s Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), FRA then prepared and circulated a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in 2003, for a maglev project linking downtown Baltimore, BWI Marshall Airport, and Union Station in Washington, DC. The DEIS documented project needs, including transportation demand, regional economic growth, and reducing corridor congestion. The DEIS also documented feasible mitigation measures for the environmental impacts as well as the benefits of the project alternatives.
In 2007, FRA prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS); however, the FEIS was not finalized.
The 2001 PEIS, 2003 DEIS, and 2007 FEIS considered earlier iterations of maglev technology, different from the Japanese SCMAGLEV technology that is currently being studied in this current EIS.
FRA is now undertaking this new NEPA study, in part because of the commitment of private funding for the NEPA study.
WHO IS INVOLVED WITH THE SCMAGLEV PROJECT? +
FRA is serving as the lead federal agency for the NEPA EIS. FRA is the decision-maker regarding all aspects of the NEPA process, the environmental analysis, and the alternative alignments.
MDOT is the grantee under NEPA primarily funding this phase of the project (preliminary engineering and environmental studies) through a federal grant. MDOT works with FRA and oversees the work being performed by MEDCO and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), a transportation business unit of MDOT.
MDOT MTA is coordinating the development of the NEPA EIS, which is being prepared by the environmental consultant, AECOM.
BWRR is a proponent of SCMAGLEV between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The private company has an interest in constructing and operating the SCMAGLEV system. BWRR, is conjunction with JR Central and the engineering consultant, Louis Berger, have defined the commercial specifications (maximum operating speed and corresponding design criteria) for optimal performance of SCMAGLEV technology accounting for such consideration as aerodynamics, energy consumption, and passenger comfort.
MEDCO is coordinating the engineering and design efforts being developed by BWRR for the project.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT SCHEDULE? +
The anticipated completion date of the DEIS is December 2018 and the anticipated completion date of the FEIS/ROD is Summer 2019.
WHAT IS THE NEPA PROCESS? +
NEPA is a law requiring federal agencies to analyze potential consequences of proposed projects on the human environment. The law requires public involvement and informed and documented decision-making. FRA and MDOT welcome the public to give feedback at any stage of the process.
Specific project phases include:
Scoping: This stage is an early and open process for identifying and determining the breadth of significant issues related to a proposed action. This stage also involves engaging with interested stakeholders and meeting with both the public and identified cooperating and participating agencies. Even though scoping is a finite window, FRA and MDOT are committed to accepting public and agency feedback during this study’s entire life cycle.
Alternatives Development Process:
Preliminary Alternatives Analysis: After scoping, the FRA and MDOT develop preliminary screening criteria and start eliminating certain alternatives based on engineering constraints (fatal flaws) and potential environmental impacts. This stage ends with the identification of alternatives for detailed further study.
Alternatives Report: This document notes the potential physical and environmental impacts of alternatives in detail. The Alternatives Report identifies the remaining alternatives retained for further study in the DEIS.
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS): The DEIS evaluates and documents the natural, cultural, and socio-economic impacts of the retained alternatives.
Public Hearing: The NEPA Team holds public hearing(s) after preparation of the DEIS.
Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS): The FEIS documents the final Preferred Alternative after documenting the impacts.
Record of Decision (ROD): The ROD is a decision document that identifies a Selected Alternative, delineates mitigation commitments, and responds to comments on the DEIS.
WHAT IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (EIS)? +
Federal agencies prepare an EIS if a proposed major federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human and natural environment.
The EIS will evaluate the following types of impacts:
- Transportation effects
- Air quality, noise, and vibration
- Land use
- Communities and socioeconomic conditions
- Open space, parklands and farmlands
- Visual and aesthetic effects
- Contamination and hazardous materials
- Cultural resources
- Water and geologic resources
- Protected species and critical habitats
- Secondary and cumulative effects
- Safety and security
- Electromagnetic fields
WHERE ARE WE NOW IN THE NEPA PROCESS? +
As of September 2017, the Preliminary Alternatives Screening phase (or the “screening process”) is currently underway to develop screening criteria and determine which alternatives are most viable (do not have fatal flaws) for further study. Although the official scoping period for the SCMAGLEV Project ended in January 2017, FRA and MDOT are accepting input from the public and concerned stakeholders throughout the process.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO MINIMIZE HARMFUL IMPACTS TO TRAILS, WILDLIFE, AND NATURAL HABITAT? +
FRA and MDOT are coordinating with more than two dozen resource agencies to evaluate potential impacts to natural resources and ensure ecosystems within the study area continue to thrive.
For each alternative alignment retained for detailed study, the team identifies these resources and evaluates the nature and extent of the potential impacts.
Federal law requires specific coordination in regard to threatened or endangered species within the project study area. Where possible, alignments are shifted to avoid or minimize impacts. In cases where impacts are unavoidable, the NEPA Team, technical experts and local, state, and federal agencies will recommend ways to mitigate impacts.
The public will have opportunities to comment on related impacts and mitigation measures.
WILL A MAGLEV STATION BE IN MY AREA? +
FRA and MDOT will complete the environmental and engineering studies for proposed stations in Baltimore, Maryland, Washington D.C., and an intermediate stop at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
At this stage, it is too early to determine the exact station locations, because FRA and MDOT are reviewing possible alignments.
WILL THE PROPOSED SYSTEM BE SAFE FOR PASSENGERS AND SURROUNDING RESIDENTS? +
Safety is of paramount importance to FRA. The safety and security for areas adjacent to the train facilities, as well as on-board trains and at train facilities, will be evaluated as part of preliminary design and documented in the EIS through coordination with relevant agencies, stakeholders, and technical experts. FRA and MDOT will research and document safety issues and best practices related to personal safety and security for passengers, as well as address the safety and security of operating superconducting magnetic levitation trains under various conditions and environmental factors, such as snow events and during times of poor conductor visibility. FRA is in the process of investigating and establishing safety impacts and guidelines for SCMAGLEV systems in the United States. FRA and MDOT will research and plan for potential threats such as terrorist attacks, fires, explosions, and severe weather events. This information will be included in the EIS.
WILL THERE BE AN EMERGENCY SERVICE ROAD ALONG THE ROUTE TO ALLOW FIRST RESPONDERS TO GET TO THE TRAIN IF THERE IS AN INCIDENT? +
FRA engineers, in conjunction with state and local fire and rescue professionals, will be reviewing BWRR’s SCMAGLEV system and safety plans, and will establish requirements for emergency roads, emergency egress points for tunnels, and other safety/emergency infrastructure. We will be checking on the progress of the development of this design criteria and will update the website when we have received the information.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS IN THE PUBLIC OUTREACH? HOW CAN I FIND OUT ABOUT FUTURE PUBLIC OPEN HOUSES? +
FRA and MDOT welcome feedback on the outreach process and have taken steps to increase public outreach and provide additional information.
FRA and MDOT are seeking public involvement through:
- Another round of public outreach sessions scheduled for October 2017 to update the public on the NEPA process and the project’s progress.
- Posting detailed maps of preliminary alternative alignments to help community members locate specific properties.
- Updating the project website (www.bwmaglev.info) with meeting information ahead of the public involvement opportunities.
FRA and MDOT continue to coordinate with elected federal, state, county, and local officials; community and neighborhood organizations; major and local newspapers, and media outlets.
HOW CAN I STAY INFORMED AND GIVE INPUT DURING THE PLANNING PROCESS? +
We want to hear from you! There are many ways to receive information and provide your input, including by:
- Visiting the project website (www.bwmaglev.info), which will be updated as the project progresses;
- Attending public meetings that will be held within the project study area throughout the NEPA process;
- Submitting comments via mail to:
c/o Suhair AlKhatib Deputy Administrator &Chief Planning, Program and Engineering Officer
Maryland Transit Administration
6 St. Paul St, Baltimore, MD 21202
- Joining the project mailing list via the project website for project updates www.BWmaglev.info