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Hopes rise for maglev in Pa.

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Hopes that the Pittsburgh region will be selected as the home for a high-speed passenger train are increasing as support in Baltimore wanes, the Tarentum Valley News Dispatch reported.

Maryland officials say the $4.4 billion magnetic levitation train -- maglev, for short -- that would run between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., is not a high priority in the face of budget restrictions and the rejection of the region's Olympic bid.

Since Pittsburgh is the only other competitor for $950 million in federal money to help finance the project, speculation is high that the city will be chosen by the Federal Railroad Administration to host the nation's first maglev project.

But local advocates aren't doing a victory dance just yet.

"To our knowledge, the Baltimore, Maryland, project is still in the maglev deployment competition and continues to move forward," said Maglev Inc. in a prepared statement.

The Monroeville-based consortium of businesses has advocated bringing the maglev to Pennsylvania since the early 1990s.

Although local support for the train is high, residents and officials in Verona initially weren't pleased with the preliminary maglev path.

The proposed 47-mile route runs from the Pittsburgh International Airport to Monroeville to Greensburg. The path would follow the Allegheny Valley Railroad through Verona — cutting through the borough's municipal offices along East Railroad Avenue.

Verona Council President Anthony Futules said residents expressed concerned when they received "notice of intent-to-enter" letters from the Port Authority Transit of Allegheny County, one of several agencies studying the environmental impact of the maglev.

"It sounded like they were going to tear the whole town down," Futules said.

However, he said the letters indicated right-of-way clearances for the train, which doesn't necessarily mean houses will be condemned.

Representatives from the MSM Group, a group of firms contracted by the Port Authority to study the plan, said the dual track would be 30 feet wide with an additional 20-foot buffer zone on either side.

As for the borough building, Futules said officials have guaranteed that the building would be rebuilt elsewhere.

Futules said most of the local concerns have been addressed, and that he is hopeful the plan will go through.

"I'd certainly like to get to the airport in 15 minutes," Futules said.

Another round of public hearings should be held early in 2003 to discuss findings of the environmental impact study, according to the Pennsylvania maglev project Web site.

A final decision from the Federal Railroad Administration is expected in May.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

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