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Delay in federal funding pushes back maglev's debut to 2003

Because federal funding for Old Dominion's maglev project has been delayed, the previously announced "liftoff" ceremony will not take place on Nov. 15 as planned.

While the project is nearing completion, federal funds are still needed to finish work on the demonstration site, which will showcase a magnetic levitation technology transportation system.

Maglev, like all other transportation programs in the 2003 Federal Transportation Bill, still awaits Congressional approval. Passage was expected in time for the new fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, but efforts on the federal level have been delayed, pushing the maglev project behind schedule. The opening will be delayed until sometime next year.

Completion of the three campus stations, technical efforts to enhance ride quality and final system certification are the tasks that remain to be accomplished. The maglev team is currently focusing its resources, including significant additional commitments from Lockheed Martin for control system refinement, on these tasks.

The good news, according to Tony Morris, American Maglev Technology president, is that the project is approaching completion within the original budget plan. Expenditures to date are approximately $14 million, with expected completion estimated at about $16 million.

Initially, the project was estimated to be a $21 million effort, with $7 million in contributions each from the commonwealth of Virginia, the federal government and the private sector. The project was launched with a $16 million budget after $7 million in commitments was received from both the state and private sector, with the balance to be obtained from federal appropriations.

With the support of Virginia and other key congressional representatives, the Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed allocating $2 million in its version of the 2003 Transportation Bill. The House version is anticipated to provide an equal or greater amount, with the final version of the bill, through joint committee, providing sufficient funding to complete the maglev project and, potentially, allowing expansion of maglev technology activities at Old Dominion.

With anticipated federal funding, the $7 million from the state and the now projected $8 million-plus from the private sector, the maglev team expects to extend its agreement with the university to create a National Maglev Technology Deployment Center.

The center would serve as a national and international resource for deployment of next-generation urban transportation projects utilizing new technology. The maglev team also expects to locate an experimental division on campus for further development of its technology.

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