Old Dominion University College of Sciences Newsletter
College of Sciences Newsletter Edition 20 February 10, 2004

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President Runte Comments On Status Of Maglev

Oct. 28, 2003

Dear Members of the Old Dominion University Community,

American Maglev Technology Inc. initially conceived the Maglev system as a $21 million prototype, with $7 million coming from private enterprise, $7 million in loans from the Commonwealth of Virginia and $7 million from the federal government. The project began with $14 million and hopes for the $7 million from the federal government. Then Sept. 11, the economy and war intervened. On Feb. 14, 2003, the federal government made the first $2 million of federal funding available to Old Dominion University to complete the project, which had been halted due to lack of funds. No university funds have been used for the project.

The system belongs to American Maglev with the intention that it be given to Old Dominion once the project is completed. Work carried out on this project is the sole responsibility of American Maglev. The university nonetheless has been sued for the apparent failure of American Maglev to pay for work executed. We certainly hope American Maglev and the contractors will arrive at a satisfactory resolution.

In the meantime, Old Dominion has been working on a means to proceed with the scientific work on this project. The train lifts and moves, but the ride quality is presently unacceptable. Both engineers at Lockheed Martin and our faculty have expressed confidence that this can be corrected.

It is difficult to attempt to offer a timetable for the project. Once the $2 million in federal funds are released, we are hopeful that the university community will see some results within six months. The project, however, will need more than $2 million to be completed. We are thus continuing efforts to achieve additional federal funding for this purpose, as well as for further research on magnetic levitation and transportation.

This has been a difficult process. Everyone has worked very diligently and has put in a lot of time on the Maglev project. We have a responsibility to the Commonwealth to try to make its investment a success. We have a responsibility to society to attempt to introduce a new, cost-efficient mode of transportation. We have a responsibility to science to continue this research and to our faculty to support their scientific exploration. At this time, I ask the entire Old Dominion University community to offer their patience in this venture. Growing up on the banks of the Hudson River, I often read about "Fulton's folly," the steamboat Robert Fulton said would, one day, replace ships with sails. Fulton's first steamboat did not emerge from the workshop as the final model. It required continued design improvements, the support of investors and the belief of the people. This Maglev project just might be the answer to the world's need for high-speed transportation. It also might not be the right answer. We need to let the technology be tested and allow our scientific community the opportunity to contribute its expertise.

The Maglev project in China has stalled due to technical problems. Our design is different. It is the only demonstration project in the world at this time. When the Chinese project opened, I said it was good to be first, but better to be economical and second in today's world. We could still have the first, successful project. That would certainly turn what some treat ruefully as a source of humor into a source of pride. That alone is sufficient reason to stand back and give it some time. Let us recall an ancient fable about the hare and the tortoise: perhaps Aesop will prove correct in this case as well!

Sincerely yours,

Roseann Runte


This article was posted on: October 28, 2003

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Phyllis Brown, Editor
College of Sciences Newsletter
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