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Twenty-first century transportation will be one step closer to reality when Old Dominion University breaks ground for the first commercial maglev transportation system in the world Wednesday, Aug. 29.

State and federal legislators will join officials from Old Dominion and its partners, American Maglev Technology (AMT) and Dominion Virginia Power, to launch the construction of the guideways and stations for the $14 million, futuristic transportation system.

"When the last spike was driven in the railroad which crossed this country, history was made. Not only was transportation improved, but this nation of 50 states was born," said Old Dominion President Roseann Runte. "At Old Dominion, we are not only driving the first pylon in the future of low-cost, energy-efficient and rapid transport but we are moving our great nation into a new century.

"Old Dominion is proud of this forward-looking project which creatively combines the knowledge of scientists, the capacity of engineers and corporate know-how to produce rapid transportation that will revolutionize our lives."

The groundbreaking will be preceded by a program at 10:30 a.m. in Webb University Center on the Old Dominion campus in Norfolk, Va. A presentation, virtual-reality demonstration and scientific briefing will be followed by the actual groundbreaking and lunch.

Maglev - short for magnetic levitation - is proposed as a viable solution to the country's transportation problems. The system uses specially designed vehicles that glide on an electromagnetic cushion atop an elevated guideway. Maglev systems move at high speeds, produce no air or noise pollution, and can be built on existing rights-of-way.

Although maglev demonstration projects have been in place in Germany and Japan for a number of years, the U.S. system will be considerably less expensive to build and run, according to Tony Morris, president of AMT.

"The entire American MAGLEV Team has been singularly focused on building affordable transportation with attributes that move people to reconsider their 'love affair' with the car for trips of 50 to 500 miles," he said. "Fast, frequent, and flexible transportation options are absolutely crucial in order to maintain our quality of life and cope with ever-increasing sprawl, congestion, and gridlock."

The Old Dominion maglev project will link key activity centers and connect the existing Norfolk campus with areas of new development east of Hampton Boulevard. Guideway and station construction should be completed by the end of the year. The vehicle, which is currently being tested and constructed in Edgewater, Fla., will arrive in January; passenger service is slated to begin in summer 2002.

The system will consist of a single vehicle, approximately 45 feet long with a capacity of 100 riders, to run every seven minutes at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. The elevated guideway, approximately 3,400 feet long, will be supported by concrete columns spaced 80-90 feet apart.

When completed, the maglev system will run from Whitehurst and Powhatan residence halls, down the east-west spine of the campus and across Hampton Boulevard to the new Constant Convocation Center, with stations at the residence halls, Webb University Center and the convocation center parking garage.

Under the maglev partnership, Old Dominion is the lead research university. Lockheed Martin is responsible for integrating the transportation system, and Dominion Virginia Power will provide power equipment, site power and other services.
American Maglev will fund the project, estimated at $14 million, from both private and public sources. This includes a $7 million loan approved by the Virginia General Assembly and administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and $7 million from private companies, including Dominion Virginia Power and Lockheed Martin. The state loan is to be repaid from proceeds of a future high-speed, revenue-producing maglev project in Virginia.

As the host research university, Old Dominion's College of Engineering and Technology will be involved in the development of the project and future enhancements of the technology -- "a marvelous opportunity for our engineering and science faculty and students," according to Runte.

"This project represents the first step in a seamless transportation system for the new millennium. Our objective remains to connect the Hampton Roads region with Washington, D.C., by the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 2007," said Morris. "This project keeps us on schedule to provide one-hour, $50 one-way service that can help us change the transportation equation to the favor of the traveling public. In doing so, we can improve or otherwise maintain our transportation quality of life."

This article was posted on: August 17, 2001

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