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Orlando MagLev Plan Gets Tentative Approval

Monday, December 17, 2012

Magnetic levitation concept drawing (Image courtesy of American Maglev Technology Inc.)

A private company aiming to build a 40-mile long, $800 million dollar magnetic levitation rail line through Orlando has the green light to move forward with its plan.

American Maglev Technology Inc. says the monorail would be a first for the U.S.

The transportation planning agency Metroplan Orlando gave its conditional approval to phase one of the plan last week -- a 15-mile elevated line connecting Orlando International Airport  and the Orange County Convention Center.

The first phase would cost $315 million. MetroPlan's approval clears the way for the Florida Department of Transportation to solicit bids for use of the public right of way along the proposed route.

Tony Morris of American Maglev Technology Inc (AMT) says no public money would be needed to fund the project. According to AMT presentation materials, the company's system would cost $20 million per mile to build, compared to $70 million for other maglev systems.

MetroPlan wants a technical assessment to ensure the technology is safe, and it wants a request for proposals issued to see if there are competing plans before proceeding further.

MetroPlan executive director Harry Barley says the Florida Department of Transportation will carry out the technical assessment.

"This is a new technology, there is a test track and the [AMT] team has already gone through a great deal of testing on their own," says Barley. "But we feel there needs to be some additional work to review what they've done and perhaps build upon that before we're really confident the technology is appropriate."

Lease agreements also need to be negotiated to acquire public right of ways for the project.

Barley says those details will have to be worked out amongst the various agencies, including the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the Orange County Expressway Authority, Orange County and the City of Orlando.

"The step that was taken with all those people present and voting to move ahead, I think reflects the collaborative nature on which this project can move forward."

AMT chief executive Tony Morris began working on a magnetic levitation rail system in Volusia County in the 1990s-- but that project didn't progress beyond the test phase.

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Transportation Nation

Role Reversal: Calif. High Speed Rail Plan May Use Chinese Tech and U.S. Labor

Friday, June 24, 2011

(Chinese Maglev High-Speed Rail Train, (cc) by Flickr User cramnic)

Nearly 150 years ago America built the first transcontinental railroad with  American technology and capital, but imported labor. Some 10,000 Chinese workers used pickaxes and dynamite to cut tunnels and lay rail-lines, sometimes below feet of snow where locals wouldn't work. Now, President Obama is promoting a new generation of rail and the Chinese are again involved. This time, though, they don't just want to swing an axe. They want to design and part-fund America's first generation of high-speed rail based on their own existing technology. Americans would provide the labor.

Alastair Leithead, a reporter with the BBC, has been looking at the story for their series "Power of Asia." Our partner The Takeaway excepts some of his reporting and talks with Brian Leung, the author of "Take Me Home" a book about Chinese Americans in the nineteenth century.

"I think if this project takes hold there are going to be lots of interesting discussions about what labor pool is going to be exploited in the building this time," Leung says.

Hear the full story of China's American rail ambitions, the labor/capital role reversal on rail, and the interview with Leung at The Takeaway.

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