Note from Dan: The original article was written by Cathie Meetre. The original article was edited to include updated and additional information provided a representative of The Boring Company during a recent three (3) hour meeting with members of the Citizens Against the SCMagLev (CATS) leadership, which I attended. We listened and peppered the representative with questions throughout the meeting. *…* denotes information I added throughout and at the end Ms. Meetre’s article gathered from our meeting with the Boring Company.
On Tuesday, May 28, Economic Development Coordinator Charisse Liggins described the status of the Hyperloop system at the regular meeting of the Greenbelt City Council. *Now renamed the “Loop,” the proposed system is now planned to employ modified Tesla Model X vehicles running underground from Washington to Baltimore at speeds up to 150 miles per hour. The project will be constructed by Boring Company, a tunneling company founded by Elon Musk.* The Boring Company has not held any public briefings and has relied instead on its website to share information. Click here to visit The Boring Company website.
*As stated on The Boring Company website, “Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported in autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) traveling at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.”*
Greenbelt City Planning Coordinator Terri Hruby said that a preliminary environmental assessment is currently underway. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) will then determine whether the project has enough environmental impact to warrant a full environmental impact analysis. Even if a full analysis is not required, Hruby noted that the project must still be reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers because its tunnels will pass under navigable waterways.
*Currently, the FHA position the environmental impact of building the Loop as proposed, does not require a full Environmental Impact Study (EIA), as compared to the proposed building of the SCMagLev, because the FHA was convinced that the environmental impact of building the Loop has low to no impact on the environment and surrounding communities.*
Hruby noted that this project has the support of Governor Hogan. Greenbelt City Council members asked if the project is contingent on transfer of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway from the federal government to the state. Hruby said she did not think this had been considered.
Liggins described what the project involves and how it will impact Greenbelt. *Her description applies to all communities (including Linthicum) along the proposed route.* The entire system would be underground with twin tunnels under the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The Boring Company maintains that the project will have very little environmental impact. It says that its structures are low profile and wouldn’t interfere with anything around them. The company also says the vehicles used in the Loop are battery-powered modules that produce zero emissions. Councilmember Rodney Roberts pointed out that no transportation alternative produces zero emissions. Power must be generated to charge the batteries and used to construct the vehicles. Roberts said that claiming a zero emissions system was simply deluding the public.
*Councilman’s Roberts statement is an accurate. Everything built and operating produces some sort(s) of environmental impact. The question is if the benefits to society outweigh the cumulative impact on negative consequences? As we learn more about the evolving Loop concept, construction, and operation plans, the more it is looking like a system that will serve the residents of our communities, counties and the State of Maryland, as opposed to the SCMagLev, which has little to no value to the communities throughout Anne Arundel and Prince Georges Counties. See prior postings to learn more about the impacts of building the SCMagLev will have on Linthicum, our neighboring communities, Anne Arundel and Prince Georges counties, and Maryland.*
Liggins played a video clip from Boring’s website. *Click Here to watch Video.* The clip shows a small SUV being lowered on an elevator into the ground. It then queued and accelerated into a 12-foot diameter tunnel. At the end of the run, the vehicle is lifted out of the tunnel on an elevator to the surface at the other end. Councilmembers wondered about the slowness of loading and unloading cars one at a time causing underground traffic jams.
The system has not yet been fully tested, according to Liggins. She noted that development was moving faster than the website conveyed. Information available to the public on the website is always a step behind the actual state of the project. The company is using a test track about a mile long that runs under the Las Vegas Convention Center. It isn’t clear how long testing will last because the Loop project is not yet classified as either a rail or road project, which affects federal agency jurisdiction.
Tunnel Boring Launch Sites
Greenway Center Drive in Greenbelt is projected to be one *of four (4)* boring machine launch sites. A shaft would be made in the ground and boring machines lowered into it. This also makes it an egress point for waste produced by the machines. It will result in a constant stream of dump trucks over the period of construction.
Councilmembers expressed concern that this heavily loaded traffic would tear up the roads and cause a noise problem for residents. Once the project is up and running, the launch sites become maintenance facilities and access points.
*As with any large scale construction, traffic, noise and potential road impacts will affect Anne Arundel County, as it will in Prince George's County.*
Staying in the Loop
Ms. Liggins suggested Elon Musk has apparently barred his team from meeting with the public. Council expressed concern at what appears to be the company’s unwillingness to deal with the concerns of residents affected by the project.
*As stated earlier, a representative from The Boring Company reached out to the leadership of the members of the CATS and met for three (3) hours to brief the CATS leadership and answer any and all questions. Following the meeting, the representative also provided additional information and links to their website, included at the end of this article. The Boring Company also provided information on their information sharing efforts with the public at larger.*
Greenbelt Councilmember Judith Davis suggested that Elon Musk is trying to get this project done before SCMagLev. She went on, “[Musk] is having a fun time with his money and he’s getting the camel’s nose under the tent for the full Hyperloop later ... [Moving] a thousand people a day isn’t going to make a dent in transportation.”
*Note: While the tunnels are being constructed to initially run autonomously operating Tesla Model X vehicles, The Boring Company’s plan is to build the system in a fashion that would allow the tunnels to be upgradable to accommodate the Hyperloop. As noted in prior posted articles, the Hyperloop goal is to employ specially designed “pods” capable of travelling at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour to move people quickly between East Coast cities. This technology is in early stages of development.*
Roberts stated categorically that he “wanted them *(The Boring Company)* to come out and tell us and give us the details.” Although private money is funding the project *Elon Musk, through The Boring Company, is planning to pay for the land acquisition, the building and operation of the Loop.* Roberts opined that if The Boring Company wants to use public resources (such a space under the parkway) then the public deserves to be involved.
Councilmember Edward Putens felt that council must do the right thing and have a public hearing. He wondered, therefore, what exactly the Council expected to accomplish during the current meeting.
Hruby explained the purpose of the meeting was to explore where the Greenbelt stood on the issues. She noted that although the project was privately funded, significant time and effort was being expended by Greenbelt in considering the Hyperloop. It was not true, therefore, that there was no cost to the public. *Similar County and State resources will likely be used as the Loop planning moves into the permitting phase and if approved the building phase.*
Davis made a motion that the city declares itself a party of record and informs The Boring Company of the city’s concerns. Hruby will draft a communication to The Boring Company for the Consent Agenda on June 3rd.
State Board of Public Works
In a related matter of transportation infrastructure, Mayor Emmett Jordan suggested sending a letter to Peter Franchot, Maryland State Comptroller, regarding potential funding of the state portion of the SCMagLev development. Council is concerned that the board may approve the expenditure even though the evaluation is not complete.
*Note: We don’t know what State funding for the SCMagLev being discussed here. LSIA is looking into this to see what we can find out.*
Franchot is one of three members of the State Board of Public Works. The other members are the governor and treasurer of the state. This board is responsible for the expenditure of all capital appropriations and the superintendence of nearly all state public works projects.
Councilman Roberts questioned whether it would be illegal for the board to make such a resolution in advance of the completion of the process. Council requested that Hruby draft a suitable note for this topic to be discussed further at the next regular council meeting.
*Additional information -
As currently proposed, the Loop will offer another means to travel between Baltimore and Washington, DC, with entry and exit points into and out of communities along the way, that have a relatively small footprint surface structures, with a system built under existing roads and not under homes and businesses, at a cost point per traveler similar to MARC. The basic concept is you get to a local launch site by bike or bike share, personal vehicle, taxi, Uber, public transportation, or other means. Your Loop vehicle comes up out of the ground, and the door(s) opens. You board and the door(s) close and the vehicle descends into the Loop tunnel entrance. Your Loop vehicle is automatically queued and when it is your turn, the autonomous vehicle accelerates into the tunnel. You cruise at speeds up to 150 miles per hours, until you are approaching your exit point. Your vehicle slows down and pulls onto an elevator. Once your vehicle reached the surface, you exit and anyone waiting for their ride enters the same vehicle and the process repeats itself to deliver the next rider(s) to their destination. Once you exited the Loop and are on ground level, you can walk or use various surface transportation means available to reach you intended final destination. How do you arrange for a ride? You will be able to use a kiosk at the entry/exit site, or a smartphone app.
Two very important points of information were provided during our meeting by The Boring Company representative:
(1) If approved, permitted, built and operating the Loop’s Main Artery between Baltimore and Washington. DC, the Boring Company then plans to meet with communities along the Loop and ask them if they would like an entry/exit point in or near their community. If the community says no, The Boring Company will say okay and if you change your mind feel free to call on us. If the community says yes, then The Boring Company will work with the community to find an appropriate place to build an entry/exit point, which accommodates accesses from under existing roadways. The current planning of The Boring Company is to purchase or lease the land on which the Loop entry/exit points are located. They will then tunnel from the Loop to the designated entry/exit point under existing roadways. Again, their stated position in the construction of the Loop and the entry/exit points is not to tunnel under the homes, businesses or other sensitive area, but under existing roadways or private land owned or leased by the Boring Company. The Boring Company current thinking includes an entry/exit point in or near Linthicum if we say yes. My thinking is a location near or on an existing BWI parking lot accessed off of Aviation Boulevard (Maryland Route 170), but if the project gets this far our community will be actively engaged in any consideration of building a entry/exit site and option(s) for the site’s location.
(2) The Boring Company does NOT intend to use Eminent Domain to take private or public property.
The current planning for the ventilation, emergency access and system maintenance points range in size from 15 feet by 15 feet to 30 feet by 30 feet or the size of a three (3) car to six (6) car garage. The entry/exit points will be built to accommodate at least two (2) elevators, and range in size from 1,500 square feet to 8,000 square feet.
To learn more about the Loop building process, The Boring Company has prepared a 16-minute informational video you can access here: www.dcbaltimoreloop.com/.
“Comments, questions, and station suggestions can be emailed to email@example.com.
If you wish to participate in the NEPA public comment process, please visit The Boring Company project website at www.dcbaltimoreloop.com.
To read and/or download a copy the current Environmental Assessment for building the Loop, go to: www.dcbaltimoreloop.com/DraftLoopEA.pdf.
Source: Meetre, Cathie. “Two Alternative Transportation Modes Take Heat from Council [Loop and SCMaglev].” June 6, 2019. The Greenbelt News Review.
Source: May 22, 2019 meeting notes from Dan Woomer. Meeting with a representative from the Boring Company with senior leadership of the Citizens Against the SCMagLev (CATS). To learn more about CATS and the opposition to building the SCMagLev visit their Website at: www.stopthistrain.org/, or their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/groups/CitizensAgainstSCMaglev/.
Source: The Boring Company website at www.boringcompany.com.