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Superconducting Magnetic Levitation hovering over environmental impact

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By Erik Furlan

(August 28, 2017 – WASHINGTON, DC) Imagine being able to get from Baltimore to New York City in an hour. No traffic jams, no rail cars, no long lines at airport security. Just you in a comfortable seat, one that happens to be travelling over 300 miles per hour on a Superconducting Magnetic Levitation rail line.

That is the vision of the people at The Northeast Maglev. TNEM is working to bring the technology of SCMAGLEV to the Northeast Corridor of the United States, arguably the most congested transportation region in the country.

“The Northeast Corridor is home to 50 million residents and is expected to grow to 65 million by 2050, with 60 percent increased intercity trips by 2030,” Robert Kiernan, senior director at TNEM, said. “Demographers and planners foresee, between now and 2040, increased economic activity [and] higher population density, with more businesses and enterprises opening and doing business.”

Environmentally speaking, benefits include reduced highway congestion, fuel consumption, fewer short-haul flights, and reduced highway maintenance.

“Nearly all of the trips, 85 to 90 percent, taken in the Northeast Corridor are by car," Kiernan said. "Our goal is to take automobiles off the highway and get people into the SCMAGLEV train."

Additionally, SCMAGLEV levitates inches off the ground on magnetic fields, eliminating the rail noise and vibration that comes from steel wheels grinding along conventional train tracks. Energy consumption is further reduced with the lightweight, aerodynamic design of the train itself and its means of propulsion—electricity from substations. Based on studies in Japan, SCMAGLEV emits a third of the CO2 and consumes half the energy of a Boeing 777.

“SCMAGLEV is an environmentally friendly, high-speed solution and is arguably one of the greenest travel systems available,” Kiernan said. “In the first phase of the project alone, we are looking at reducing, by tens of thousands of tons, greenhouse gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. That has a positive impact on air quality in the region.”

TNEM is working in conjunction with Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail to bring high-speed rail to Maryland as a matter of need. The group cites multiple studies and an advisory board including former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former New York Gov. George Pataki, along with Under Armour’s Kevin Plank and two former United States secretaries of transportation. 

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation are conducting an environmental impact statement for the Baltimore-Washington SCMAGLEV project, set to be completed in early 2019.