The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Maryland Department of Transportation-Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT-MTA) have prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential impacts of constructing and operating a high-speed superconducting magnetic levitation (SCMaglev) system between Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland with an intermediate stop at BWI Airport.

Environmental Impact Study

Northeast Maglev project timeline graphic

What is the EIS?

The EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) is being prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the NEPA process, agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of a proposed system. The process also provides opportunities for both public review and comment on these evaluations. The current EIS process is designed to evaluate all aspects of bringing the SCMAGLEV technology to the region.

The FRA-led National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process provides a ‘hard look’ at potential project impacts, providing full disclosure through developing and publishing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS will analyze the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the alternatives (both build and ‘no-build’ options) on the social, economic, and environmental resources in the study area. This analysis will include identification of study areas appropriate for each resource, documentation of the affected environment, and identification of measures to avoid and / or mitigate significant adverse impacts. FRA and MDOT-MTA will evaluate the impacts of the proposed project using data and field analyses. The analysis of resources will be consistent with NEPA, CEQ (Council on Environmental Quality) regulations and FRA’s Environmental Procedures.

Phase I Study Area

The process began with with a study area between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD defined by FRA and MDOT-MTA. The study area was approximately 40 miles long and 10 miles wide – roughly bound on the west by Interstate 95 and on the east by the former Washington Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railroad alignment. It included portions of the City of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Washington, DC.

Analysis of Alignments

FRA and MDOT-MTA analyzed 14 initial alignments for fatal flaws, via a pass / fail analysis that compared conceptual level geometric design of each alignment to BWRR’s SCMAGLEV design criteria. Of the initial 14 alignments, FRA and MDOT-MTA advanced seven potential alignments to the second stage of screening, which included an analysis for construction feasibility and potential environmental impacts. After additional screening, FRA and MDOT-MTA held five public open house meetings in October 2017, to present three remaining preliminary alternative alignments plus the “No Build Alternative”, as well as possible station zones, and potential locations of the primary support facilities. FRA and MDOT-MTA have since determined that two alignments plus the “No Build Alternative” be advanced for further study in the recently released Alternatives Report.

NEPA EIS Process

There are several steps of the NEPA EIS process, each with distinct goals, purposes, and timelines

A table describing the NEPA process with DEIS highlighted as the current process status
  1. Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (PASR) – The PASR outlines the screening methodology and evaluation process. The purpose of alternatives screening is for FRA and MDOT-MTA to identify reasonable alternatives to carry forward for detailed evaluation and study in the DEIS. FRA and MDOT-MTA completed this process in January 2018 resulting in 2 remaining possible alignments and a ‘no-build’ option.
  2. Alternatives Retained for Detailed Study (ARDS) – The EIS team will continue to evaluate the PASR alignments and make a recommendation on routes and facility locations to retain for detailed EIS study.
  3. Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) – The DEIS is a detailed analysis of the remaining options as they compare to the baseline, which is a ‘no-build’ option. The DEIS is a detailed look at the existing social, economic, and environmental conditions in the area of the proposed routes and a description of any potential impacts. The report will document the methodologies used for evaluation and identify mitigation measures for all impacts. Public input is sought throughout the process and this document is made available for public comment.
  4. Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) – The EIS provides responses to substantive DEIS comments and begins the FRAs final decision process.
  5. Record of Decision (ROD) – The ROD explains the FRAs decision, describes the considered alternatives, and discusses the plans for impact mitigation and monitoring.

More information about the current status of the Baltimore Washington SCMAGLEV Environmental Impact Statement can be found on the state-run project website here: