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Transportation

The Battle of the Supertrains

Promoters are touting two different multi-billion-dollar high-speed projects between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Is it a fantasy, or a game changer?
A maglev train on a test track outside Tokyo, Japan. A scheme to build a line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has been in the works for years.
A maglev train on a test track outside Tokyo, Japan. A scheme to build a line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., has been in the works for years. Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

In the space of one weird week in October, residents of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore were told that, one day, their commuting needs might be serviced by not one but two wildly ambitious high-speed rail projects.

A private company called Baltimore Washington Rapid-Rail unveiled three potential routes that the firm would like to use to build a magnetic-levitation train line. BWRR is all-in on importing Japan’s superconducting maglev technology to create a 300-mph supertrain that it says could shorten the trip between the two cities to just 15 minutes. The estimated price tag? $10 billion, a bill BWRR says will be covered by private investment—including, possibly, a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.