The Sierra Club announced its opposition to the “Baltimore- Washington DC Maglev Project” and will be endorsing the No-Build option in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement citing that any possible benefits are far outweighed by the fundamental inequity of the project, its irreversible adverse impacts on protected public lands, and its negative impacts on local transportation services that already serve the corridor. Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail, LLC is proposing to build and operate a rail project, known as a magnetic-levitation train (or “maglev”) that would travel between Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland in 15 minutes. The project is estimated to cost as much as $16.8 billion and would use magnetic forces to lift and propel trains at 300 miles per hour. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in January and are currently collecting public comments on the project through May 24.
Sierra Club supports high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor but opposes the maglev project for these reasons:
Inequities of the project. Those who would bear the burden of the impacts from construction and operation of this project would receive none of the benefits, since there are no stops along the route between D.C. and Baltimore, other than BWI airport. According to the Draft EIS, the communities that the train would cut across are nearly 70 percent communities of color and approximately 13 percent low income. Approximately 80 percent of the land parcels that would be impacted are located within Environmental Justice communities. Moreover, the cost of the ticket on the maglev train – an estimated $60 on average – would be greater than that on the MARC train ($8) or Amtrak ($46), making it an option only for the wealthy and out of reach for most people.
Endangering investments of public transit that already serve the corridor. Investment in this project by a private company would imperil much-needed repairs and upgrades for local public transit, the MARC and Amtrak trains that currently serve the general public along the corridor. While the Sierra Club supports intercity rapid rail as an alternative to automobile travel, there isn’t clear evidence that this segment between Washington, DC and Baltimore would have a meaningful impact on car travel between these cities. According to the Draft EIS, approximately 32% of annual MARC ridership on the Penn and Camden Lines would divert to the maglev project once it is implemented.
Major Environmental Impacts. No large transportation infrastructure project comes without environmental impacts but the scale of the impacts on state and federal protected areas are significant. Sierra Club is greatly concerned about the scale of irreversible adverse impacts that this project would have on our public lands, especially the Patuxent Research Refuge and the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, as well as the National Parkland along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the Greenbelt Forest Preserve. According to the DEIS, the project would increase net transportation energy consumption by approximately 3 trillion Btus, equivalent to the energy to power around 88,900 average homes for one year. At the same time, the anticipated decrease in energy expenditure from the diversion of auto, bus, and rail traffic to the maglev project is not expected to offset the increase in energy consumption.
In response to the DEIS, Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club released the following statement:
“The Sierra Club supports high speed intercity rail, including high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. However, we have significant concerns that the maglev project currently proposed between Baltimore and Washington, DC would disproportionately impact communities of color and environmental justice communities that would not receive any of the benefits of the project. If built, this project would divert investments from public transit that already serves this corridor and have significant adverse impacts on protected public lands. Based on these concerns, Sierra Club opposes the project as currently proposed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and endorses the No-Build option.”