Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan rode a high-speed train in Japan on Thursday, but a local transit advocate says the governor should also visit local communities that would benefit from the light rail Purple Line.
The governor raced at speeds topping out at 314 mph on the Yamanashi Maglev Line outside of Tokyo, as he rounded out his 12-day Asia trip that also took him to South Korea and China.
The maglev train, which only operates on a test track, uses magnetic forces to reduce friction, giving the trains the ability to travel at incredibly fast speeds.
“It was an incredible experience, even more than I expected it to be,” Hogan said during a press conference after the ride. “Seeing is believing.”
The governor announced that he’s interested in exploring how to construct a similar train between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., an idea that has been gaining traction since the Japanese government offered to finance $5 billion of the cost of building it in 2014. The train line is estimated to cost at least $10 billion. In a statement Thursday, the governor’s office announced the state applied for $27.8 million in Federal Railroad Administration funds to explore a maglev project in the state.
Nick Brand, the president of the local advocacy group Action Committee for Transit, said Thursday that while it’s “great” to see Hogan exploring public transportation options, Brand would like the governor to visit the communities in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County that stand to benefit from the Purple Line.
“Maglev trains are at the top end of future possibilities,” Brand said.
Hogan has said the $2.45 billion light rail project is too expensive and is expected to decide whether to move forward with it sometime later this month. The light rail would connect New Carrollton in Prince George’s County with Bethesda through a network of 21 stations that could provide an alternative for commuters who pack the beltway each day.
Since taking office in January, Hogan has not toured the proposed Purple Line route. On Thursday, Brand said the governor’s message of “seeing is believing” about the maglev train could also be applied to the Purple Line.
“It’d be very nice for him to come look at the specifics of the [Purple Line],” Brand said. “He could do a ground proofing to see all the development potential and how it would fit into the current corridor.”
Business leaders are also advocating for the construction of the project, which they say will bring additional development near stations and in turn create more jobs in the area. A May report by Transportation for America, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of business and civic leaders, found that the Purple Line would raise the tax base of local jurisdictions by $12.8 billion.
Critics of the light rail line say the project’s benefits don’t justify its expense, the ridership estimates are overinflated, the trains will travel too slow at about 15 mph and that it will alter the popular Capital Crescent Trail, part of which currently runs along the Purple Line’s proposed route.
In May, Hogan’s transportation secretary Pete Rahn did take a tour of Montgomery County with County Executive Ike Leggett and Council members George Leventhal and Roger Berliner.
Leggett and other county officials said their takeaway was that the governor was trying to find ways to lower the cost of the project, according to The Washington Post.