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With a couple of keystrokes on a computer, Old Dominion University's maglev transportation system project moved -- literally and figuratively -- steps closer to making history. The first propulsion tests of the system on the campus guideway began Thursday, a feat that has not previously been accomplished in the United States.

In front of a few cameras and reporters, the vehicle levitated, moved forward about 200 feet, stopped and moved in reverse several times beside the Health and Physical Education Building on the west side of campus. Tony Morris, president of American Maglev Technology, said there were still a few bumps to iron out but "what we've seen so far is encouraging."

"It's a tuning process," he said. "The better you tune the instrument, the better the music will be."

Morris and a crew of engineers -- including several Old Dominion students -- will continue testing and adjusting the system for the next two months to prepare for its grand opening Sept. 30. The testing will be conducted mostly during evening hours and largely by Old Dominion students.

With half the track installed on the 3,200-foot guideway, crews are working to straighten and level the track -- a process that makes the ride smoother and more quiet -- and lay the remaining portions. Construction on the three stations at Powhatan, Webb University Center and the Constant Convocation Center is underway.

Before passenger operation can begin, the system must undergo 167 tests and inspections under the National People Mover Code of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Once in operation, the maglev will shuttle up to 100 passengers at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour across campus in a five-minute round trip.

This article was posted on: August 9, 2002

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