A company led by former transportation officials and executives plans to ask the U.S. government for funds next year to build a more than $10 billion Japanese magnetic-levitation train line.

The Northeast Maglev will seek money for 311-mile-per-hour trains that can run between between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore in 15 minutes, the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wayne Rogers said in Tsuru, Japan today. The company is working with Central Japan Railway Co. to design a line that could take as long as 11 years to plan and build.

Japan, which aims to have its first maglev line in 2027, seeks an overseas customer for the technology. Northeast Maglev may eventually be extended to run between New York and the capital in 60 minutes, Rogers said.

“We have been working with the Japanese government and they have said that they will provide half of the money for the first leg and we have private investment that we’re mobilizing as well,” Rogers said. “We hope the U.S. government will be submitting some of the funds to finish it out.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government may may provide financing to support Central Japan Railway’s bid to provide trains for a Washington-Baltimore line.

A separate Maryland Department of Transport-backed group had proposed a similar line, costing about $5.8 billion, which would cut the 40-mile (64 kilometers) journey to 18 minutes and could eventually be extended to New York and Boston.

‘Not Ready’

The Maryland Department of Transportation had sought $1.75 billion in stimulus funds for the Baltimore-Washington plan, a bid that was rejected. The Federal Railroad Administration said the project was “not ready,” Maglev Maryland said in 2010.

The Maryland group’s proposed line could carry about 9.2 million passengers a year, according to a Baltimore-Washington maglev website.

A maglev train may help ease traffic that has made roads in Maryland’s Montgomery County, which lies between Washington and Baltimore, the fourth most congested in the country, according to digital-mapping company TomTom NV. Washington ranks seventh.

Japan’s backing for maglev sales is part of wider government efforts to help trainmakers compete with Germany’s Siemens AG, France’s Alstom SA, Bombardier Inc. of Canada and China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp. in the U.S.

“We want to strengthen our alliance with the U.S.,” said Yoshiyuki Kasai, chairman emeritus of JR Central, as the rail operator is known as. “The U.S. could begin maglev operations around the same time as Japan or earlier.”

Free Technology

The Nagoya, Japan-based rail operator will ask for a consulting fee for the project, while not charging a licensing fee for the technology, Kasai said. “We’re not doing this to make a profit.”

JR Central last week got approval by Japan’s government to go ahead with plans to build a maglev line linking Tokyo and Nagoya. The plan will cost 5.5 trillion yen ($52 billion), including trains, the company said last week.

The maglev will more than halve travel time between the capital and Nagoya, Japan’s third-largest city, to 40 minutes for the 286-kilometer journey when it opens in 2027. The line will enable travel at almost double the 270 kilometers per hour of current bullet trains between the two cities.

Backers of the plan for a U.S. maglev line include former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who attended a briefing today in Tsuru.

“In 1961, Kennedy pledged to get a man on the moon by the end of the decade,” Daschle said, referring to former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. “I think we should build the maglev in a decade.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Cooper in Tokyo at ccooper1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net. 

Photo Credit: A test-run of Central Japan Railway’s maglev train in Japan. Yosemite / Wikimedia Commons