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Specter pledges to push to get long-delayed Maglev project going

(The Post-Gazette published the following story by Jim McKay on its website on August 13.)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday reiterated his support for the proposed Maglev project in Pennsylvania as its backers unveiled a student design for a potential station Downtown.

The state's senior Republican senator met with Maglev Inc. officials to assess their long-running program in advance of upcoming budget talks in Washington, D.C. Specter is a senior member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation.

"It requires a vision for the future. It's expensive, but it is worth it," he said of the project, which has been under development for more than a decade and still faces an uncertain future.

The senator touted the project's potential to create jobs in steel used for the train's guideways and in other industries. He compared it with building the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century.

"It will be a bonanza all along the line -- every community it passes through," he said.

Pittsburgh and the Baltimore-Washington region have for several years been in competition for federal funds.

Pittsburgh is proposing a $3 billion, 45-mile, high-speed system connecting Greensburg, Monroeville, Downtown and the Pittsburgh International Airport. Baltimore has pitched a $3.8 billion, 40-mile line that would go from Baltimore's Camden Yards sports complex to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and then to Union Station in Washington.

Specter said he believed that Pittsburgh had a "sizable advantage" over Baltimore and another proposal that would link Las Vegas and Southern California. He said he was trying to build a "national constituency" for the project among his fellow legislators.

Maglev Inc., the corporation formed to promote the project in Pittsburgh, also unveiled a model for a Downtown station conceived by Penn State architectural student John A. Jackson, 22, of Mount Pleasant.

Jackson's model is a long series of glass-covered trussed arches that he envisions being built above the Crosstown Boulevard (I-576) between the U.S. Steel Tower and Mellon Arena.

The model, on display in the second-floor lobby of the U.S. Steel Tower, shows that a station could be built Downtown with no disruption to existing structures, said Maglev Chief Executive Officer Fred Gurney.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

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