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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today released $2 million for the Maglev Development Project at Old Dominion University.

The funding and one-year extension of the grant - initially approved last year and put on hold in October - will allow work on the nation's first magnetic levitation, or maglev, transportation system to resume on the Norfolk campus.

The $16 million project with American Maglev Technology (AMT), Lockheed Martin, other industry participants, and the federal and state governments began at Old Dominion two years ago with the construction of an elevated concrete guideway and track. After the initial research and development efforts at AMT's Edgewater, Fla., facility, the maglev vehicle arrived on campus and test runs began in July 2002. Ride-quality problems surfaced and work was halted that October due to funding issues and the need to refine the vehicle's complex control system.

Since then, engineers at Lockheed Martin believe they have found a solution to the ride-quality problem in the form of an alternative control system, which will be implemented in collaboration with faculty members from ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

"Developing new technology requires theories and testing, and often involves setbacks. Ultimately, with skill and perseverance, discoveries are made and progress achieved," noted Jeremiah Creedon, director of transportation research at Old Dominion.

With the federal funding, work will begin immediately in engineering labs, where comprehensive modeling and simulation testing can further evaluate and refine the ride-quality issues. Work should begin on the campus guideway this summer and testing of the vehicle could begin later this year.

Under the agreement with FRA, the university and its partners will perform a series of task orders, including:
*testing and evaluating proposed technical solutions to improve ride quality and vehicle stability via modeling and simulation programs and, ultimately, on the guideway and vehicle themselves;
*overall project management;
*vehicle development; and
*guideway and station development.

Researchers are aiming for a demonstrable engineering prototype that will operate smoothly at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour along the 1,100-foot-long guideway. They note that the system will require additional research and development beyond this upcoming work, along with required testing and evaluation for certification, before the maglev can transport passengers.

"Each step of the task orders is predicated on the success of the step before, so decision points throughout the process allow us to redirect the course of the research and proceed accordingly," Creedon said. "Ultimately, we are trying to determine if we have a viable system. This process allows us to make that decision in a scientific, responsible manner and pursue additional funding at its conclusion."

This article was posted on: April 20, 2004

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