US Transportation Sectrary of Transportation Ray LaHood and the Maryland Department of Transportation announced the awarding of a $3.74 billion grant to the state of Maryland to build a new 275 mph high speed rail line between Baltimore and Washington, DC. Operations will be begin in 2016 and will cease the next day when the HSR line will be abandoned and converted into a bike trail scheduled to open in 2018.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley praised the new project "This program is about creating jobs, expanding opportunities and connecting communities with healthy transportation choices." When asked about just building a trail between the two cities, Communicatins Director Raquel Guillory said "That idea was considered, but.... people really love rail trails."
This will be the first trail in the nation built upon an abandoned HSR line, MDOT officials proudly pointed out.
The HSR will travel a 39.1 mile dual-guideway route between DC's Union Station and downtown Baltimore with a stop at BWI and make the entire trip in under 20 minutes. It will use 7 trainsets of 3 cars each and operated 20 hours a day on a 10-minute headway. Service on the first day will be free, but on future days the train will not run as crews will be busy tearing out the rail to put in the trail.
Each of the multi-million dollar Talgo-style trainsets will be equipped with wi-fi and a full bar. After the line is abandoned, they will be dumped into the Chesapeake Bay as artificial reefs. "We're always trying to think of ways to make this project the greenest of it's kind" said Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley.
The idea had been floated to instead complete the trail along the long-abandoned Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis railroad, but officials couldn't find a way to cross the Patuxent that satisfied local landowners. "With that off the table, this became the next best option" said Guillory.
Not everyone was pleased with the announcement. "This is just the stupidest idea I've ever heard" said John Nimby who's land is adjacent to the planned abandoned high speed rail line trail. "This is just an invitation to criminals to come in and rob us all blind."
Still others were concerned it was a waste of money. "Transportation money should go towards transportation, not trails for weekend bike rides," said resident Jay J. Jay. He did however support the creation of artificial reefs.