News & Politics

Japan Wants to Build High-Speed Train Between DC and Baltimore

The proposed train would make the trip between the cities just 15 minutes long.

A maglev train in Shanghai that goes at 268 miles per hour. Japan's proposed train would top out at 310 miles per hour. Photograph byLee Prince/Shutterstock.

The United States lags behind many developed nations when it comes to high-speed trains, but the government of Japan wants to drag American rail service into the early 21st century.

The British paper Daily Telegraph reports that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently suggested to President Obama that Japan would be willing to foot half of the $8 billion cost of building a super-high-speed rail line between DC and Baltimore that would shorten the 37-mile trip between the cities from an hour to just 15 minutes.

The train, which Japan says could be operational within a decade, would be the world’s first “Super-Maglev” line, in which rail cars use electromagnets instead of wheels to move along the tracks at great speeds. A conventional maglev train in Shanghai averages 268 miles per hour along a 19-mile track. Japan’s proposed train would move at 310 miles per hour.

Despite the Obama administration’s attempts to promote high-speed trains—and a vice president who also happens to be Amtrak’s No. 1 fan—Congress in recent years has been cold to increasing rail funding. But a Japanese rail official the Telegraph spoke with optimism about the DC-Baltimore route.

“The national government has shown interest,” Masahiro Nakayama, general manager of the Central Japan Railway Co., told the newspaper. “But a number of the states in the northeast corridor—such as Maryland—are particularly keen for faster rail links and more advanced technology.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.