By Bryan P. Sears
Montgomery County Sen. Roger Manno may not be the biggest fan of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to explore bringing high speed magnetic levitation trains to Maryland.
Manno struck a subtly mocking tone during a question and answer presentation with state Transportation Sec. Pete K. Rahn in which the senator referred to the proposed maglev train as a “floating train” no fewer than seven times.
“Cool, it sounds cool,” Manno said in response to Rahn’s attempt to explain the train and its technology. “It goes like 400 miles an hour or something like that?”
Rahn appeared in a joint hearing of the Senate Budget and Taxation and Finance Committees to discuss recent toll reductions.
Manno used the opportunity to question Rahn on an agreement between Hogan and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “to build a levitating train, kind of a floating train” in Maryland.
Both Hogan and Rahn, accompanied by executives from the Central Japan Railway Company and the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail LLC, rode the 27-mile Yamanashi Maglev Line outside of Tokyo during his recent economic development mission to Asia.
Hogan was wowed by the ride.
The price tag for the project is currently estimated to be about $10 billion with the Japanese government expressing interest in providing Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail LLC with $5 billion in capital for the system that uses high-powered magnets to propel trains on a cushion of air at speeds in excess of 310 miles per hour. A trip on the proposed line from Baltimore to Washington could take just 15 minutes on the maglev train. Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail LLC has already filed plans with the Maryland Public Service Commission expressing intent to build the project on an existing but defunct rail line.
Manno called the project “unimaginably expensive.”
The thrust of Manno’s gentle mocking, however, was really focused on a pending decision by Hogan and Rahn on the proposed Purple Line that will run between Prince George’s and Montgomery County and the proposed Red Line that will run from east Baltimore to western Baltimore County. The combined cost of the two projects is approaching $6 billion.
Hogan has expressed concerns that the two projects are two expensive for the state to afford.
Rahn told Manno and the two committees that the Maglev project would be built without state dollars.
“This is not an expense to the state of Maryland,” Rahn said.
Manno urged Rahn to tour the proposed sites for the Purple and Red Lines. Rahn said he had “toured the Purple Line” but had only seen some stations sites proposed for the Red Line in Baltimore City.
“Respectfully, I know you all traveled halfway across the world to ride on this really cool floating train and I would urge you to please take a little bit of time, and I’d be happy to be your chaperones and tour those very important lines, the Red Line and Purple Line right here in Maryland,” Manno said.