The Electrical Worker online
January 2018

Northeast Semi-Supersonic Train
to be Union Built
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The developers of a train that would travel nearly half the speed of sound and get passengers from New York to Washington, D.C., in about an hour signed a memorandum of understanding to only use union labor on the project.

Under the agreement, all work on the project will be done by members of unions that form the building trades, including the IBEW. In return, the unions commit to active involvement in bringing the project to fruition said Kirk Brungard, executive director of the Baltimore-D.C. Building Trades.

"This project has the potential to employ thousands and thousands of NABTU trades workers for years," he said. "The expectation is that we will use our best efforts to support the project and use our political prowess to get appropriate permits and financing. We will show up in force in support of this project. In return, we expect people who live in the community that this train will serve to do the work."

The deal was signed by Northeast Maglev and the North America's Building Trades Unions on Nov. 1 at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, where the first commercial train service in North America began. Brungard was joined at the ceremony by North American Building Trades President Sean McGarvey, Northeast Maglev Vice Chair Jeff Hirschberg, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and nearly 100 representatives from the local and national trade unions.

"For Maglev, it was an eye-opening experience of our ability to turn people out," Brungard said.

Northeast Maglev estimates the New York to D.C. route could cost more than $100 billion to complete, but construction is still years, possibly a decade, away.

"The B&O was where it all began and we want to get the future of rail travel started here again," said Fourth District International Vice President Brian Malloy. "This is still in the permitting phase and this project needs our help."

A substantial part of the cost would go to tunneling beneath cities and building elevated track, possibly along the I-95 corridor, but maglev trains demand significant electrical infrastructure.

Instead of using rails, wheels and electric motors, maglev trains use powerful magnets to accelerate and float inside U-shaped guideways. Superconducting magnets cooled to hundreds of degrees below zero in the guideway and on the sides and bottom of the train have near-zero resistance and handle acceleration, braking and steering.

A train using similar technology owned by Central Japan Railway set a world speed record of 375 mph in 2015. The trip from Baltimore to the nation's capital, which takes close to an hour on Amtrak's high-speed Acela service, would only take about 15 minutes on the Maglev.

Brungard said that the transportation industry consensus is that a high-speed train will be built between Washington and New York, possibly starting as far south as Richmond and extending north to Boston, likely in the next few decades.

"It could be maglev, it might use existing rails or it might be a more experimental system," Brungard said. "At some point, something will be built for a whole host of reasons, and Maglev — at least long range — looks viable. This is not science fiction."

The federal government gave about $28 million in seed funding in 2016 to explore building an initial section between Baltimore and D.C.

"This would be a great project and we are happy to have the agreement. It's clean, fast transportation that would bring good jobs and will promote development in Baltimore city and surrounding counties," said Baltimore Local 24 Business Manager Pete Demchuk. "Local 24 will do whatever we can, attend public forums to promote the future of transport."


The developers of a high-speed train between Washington and New York that can reach 375 mph signed a deal Nov. 1 to use only union workers.

Image courtesy: NorthEast Maglev


The agreement was signed at the B&O Railroad museum by North American Building Trades President Sean McGarvey (right), Maryland State Delegate Cheryl Glenn and Maglev Vice Chair Jeff Hirschberg.


Maglev trains use super-cooled, low resistance magnets to float inside guideways instead of on rails. The developers expect to extend the initial route to New York, a trip the train could make in about an hour.

Image courtesy: NorthEast Maglev