Scientists first came up with the idea of using superconducting magnets to levitate a train car above a concrete guideway to dramatically increase both its speed and power. These electromagnets are cooled to extreme temperatures during use, which greatly boosts the power of the magnetic field.
Known as Maglev train technology, superconducting magnets suspend a train car above a U-shaped concrete guideway. Like ordinary magnets, these magnets repel one another when matching poles face each other.
By 2004, the first commercial passenger use of such trains was operating in Shanghai at speeds above 300 miles per hour.
In the United States, several Maglev routes are being explored to connect cities such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Now, advocates for the technologically advanced service are pushing for construction to move forward on a proposed Maglev project to connect the two mid-Atlantic cities, along with other populated area in the Northeast.
The enterprise would cost about $10 billion, but officials with Baltimore's Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters Union said July 30 the jobs it would bring will help the entire region.
Maglev officials joined labor leaders in calling for the high-speed rail project to proceed.
"It's going to change things here in Maryland, and it's going to be union-built," said Wayne Rogers, CEO of Northeast Maglev.
A Maglev train traveling 311 miles per hour could connect Washington, D.C., to New York in an hour, and Washington, D.C., to Baltimore in 15 minutes.
"It's going to change the difference from a person being able to say, ‘Maybe I make my kid's baseball game in the afternoon instead of leaving work and being stuck in traffic,'" Rogers added.
Local East Coast chambers of commerce endorsed the project in December, as did the Carpenters Union, saying construction alone will create 74,000 jobs in the region. Another 1,500 jobs would be permanent.
"The ability to travel so quickly from Washington, D.C., to New York and all the airports in between will facilitate an economic development expansion that is unprecedented," said William Sproule of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters.
"I can appreciate this will be a building boom for construction, for technology, but we have a lot of problems with our existing railway lines that we have to fix," explained Laurel City Councilman Mike Leszcz, adding he also has concerns about the project's cost and impact on the environment.
An environmental impact study, which federal and state officials are currently drafting, would analyze those concerns. Public hearings would follow the release of that environmental impact study.
The first leg of construction, alone, would take seven years.
A route for the proposed line connecting Washington and Baltimore has not yet been selected.