x
Breaking News
More () »

Washington, DC's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Washington, DC | WUSA9.com

A 311 MPH floating train could link DC & Baltimore – neighbors, the NSA & a nation in gridlock take notice

An American version of the world's fastest train could essentially make D.C. and Baltimore part of the same city. But there are obstacles in its path.

Mike Valerio

Play Video

Close Video

Could the answer to endless hours on BW Parkway, calamitous commutes, and a region’s rage against the trappings of traffic come from a breathless feat of engineering, a bullet train found floating above the Japanese countryside?

We may well find out – as a bullet of quicksilver announces its arrival from the iridescent streets of central Tokyo, to the stately corners of Mount Vernon Square in Washington.

Federal authorities are now within months of deciding the fate of a project nearly 20 years in the making – a proposed high-speed train linking D.C. and Baltimore in 15 minutes.

The dream is an American version of the world’s fastest train, currently in operation within the shadow of Mt. Fuji.

It is an extraordinary and ambitious vision of the future, a mode of transportation levitating past Shinto shrines and tranquil terrace farms at 311 mph.

The train is called an SCMaglev, an advanced bullet train that uses superconducting magnets to levitate four inches above the ground and travel at record speeds.

Backers of the U.S. project aim to challenge decades of decline in American infrastructure and to revive a dispirited and deteriorating Northeast Corridor.

Yet challenges exist. Among them, neighbors faced with the prospect of new elevated SCMaglev tracks near their homes.

Opponents in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties remain convinced that a proposed tunnel with trains propelled in the blink of an eye will inevitably lead to structural damage of thousands of houses above. Those accusations are strongly rejected by the project’s engineers.

But the forces moving behind the possible construction of a 311-mph train between D.C. and Baltimore are potentially more consequential and far-reaching than the voices heard in the quiet suburbs of the capital.

Video: SCMaglev in slow and fast motion moving at 311 mph.

Power brokers in the diplomatic quarters of Tokyo and Washington see the floating train as a way to equalize an alliance – a union under greater scrutiny during the Trump administration.

America sends Japan billions of dollars in defense and naval power Japan is unable to match on its own.

The scientific arena of building levitating trains, sparking economic growth in the process, is an area where Tokyo feels it can return the favor of advanced defense assistance – a tech tradeoff unique to each country.

The stakes of the decision to build or not to build are indeed inevitably linked to an underlying and uncomfortable question: can America build exceptional infrastructure, once again?

Forgotten are the triumphs of the subways, the incredible feat of the Panama Canal, or the early promises of the interstate highway system.

Most struggle to name even one revolutionary American transportation project in their lifetimes.

Backers say we must build – before it’s too late. Before congestion conquers, and America can no longer ascend to the apex of transportation innovation.

Credit: WUSA9
Japan has already moved through several generations of bullet trains since the 1960's. America began Acela service in December 2000.

A year-long WUSA9 investigation into the intricacies of the SCMaglev proposal reveals a complex and compelling series of storylines now set to influence 2020 building decisions in D.C. and Maryland.

Reporting efforts encompassed interviews with more than 40 stakeholders, including current and former transportation officials, a U.S. intelligence official authorized to discuss the project, residents in the Washington region, and neighbors near Japan’s SCMaglev.

The National Security Agency and NASA have also expressed interest in the project’s fate, voicing a series of security and construction concerns first reported by WUSA9 in September 2019.

Lawsuits filed in Tokyo and its neighboring region have amassed hundreds of plaintiffs to fight floating train construction, legal developments previously unreported in the United States.

After traveling to Japan and boarding the world’s fastest train, it’s difficult to be anything less than dazzled, convinced that America can and must do better.

But the U.S. decision efforts are deliberate – a process where all sides now agree the fate of American imagination and ingenuity cannot simply float away.

Watch below: SCMaglev shoots past spectators, in the blink of an eye.