Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Tennessee to get funding for Maglev study

This showed up in my mail.

Congressman Zach Wamp announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will award $14.2 million to accelerate an environmental impact statement for a high-speed magnetic levitation, or maglev, train between Atlanta, Chattanooga and Nashville. The majority of the grant will be used for the studies required in the National Environmental Policy Act identifying the corridor routes and the station locations for this proposed project.

“This funding is a game changer for the prospect of high-speed rail in the southeast and dramatically increases our chances of success in the years ahead. A high-speed rail connection between Atlanta, Chattanooga and Nashville would build the infrastructure to increase economic development and bring more people to the growing Chattanooga airport,” said Congressman Wamp. “Maglev high-speed rail could change the way Americans travel, reducing congestion on crowded roads and at busy airports. These are the types of investments that will help create quality jobs, grow the U.S. economy and help our nation be more competitive.”

“These funds are a great investment as they will accelerate the project and help take us to the next level in developing alternative forms of transportation for this country. Atlanta and Chattanooga are two great cities with a bright future ahead of us, and it is exciting to see our region remain on the cutting edge of technology-based economic development,” said Jim Hall, chairman of the board of The Enterprise Center.

A joint application for the funding was filed by the Georgia Department of Transportation with support from the Tennessee Departments of Transportation. Congressman Wamp and The Enterprise Center have worked with Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis, chairman of the Georgia Senate Transportation Committee, and others in north Georgia on regional support for the project.

A maglev train would relieve tremendous congestion in the Atlanta metro area and serve as part of a long needed intermodal mass transit system for the United States. Maglev trains can travel at more than 300 miles per hour, which would mean true high-speed ground transportation in the 116-mile corridor from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport generally along the Interstate 75 corridor to Lovell Field and Chattanooga. A recent feasibility study determined that the Atlanta-Chattanooga corridor could also extend northwest to Nashville along the Interstate 24 alignment.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

18 Responses

  1. Loren Petrich says:

    Sheesh. I can understand the proposed Pittsburgh airport maglev line, but this???

    I hope that this study includes an evaluation of more-typical high-speed-rail lines. Such lines, though slower, will likely be cheaper, and the trains more compatible.

  2. Joshua Skolnick says:

    There was already a study that basically tells us that Maglev is a boondoggle and a waste of time relative to conventional steel wheel on rail HSR. The speed and energy costs do not justify the extreme cost and the unproven technology where the rolling stock and construction costs are 5-7 time per mile that of conventional 150 mph HSR for a 20% or less time advantage. Furthermore, in this age of energy scarcity, the maglev actually devours more power than the conventional HSR. Read the link here

    Why are we spending money on this boondoggle when we can using it for real electrified HSR which is proven technology. A waste of scarce economic resources. Kill it in favor of building proven wheel on steel HSR; even the Chinese are doing it. You can build 5-7 miles of TGV-type HSR for each mile of maglev. Even the Germans jettisoned Maglev in favor of wheel on steel HSR, and they were the ones that actually developed a working maglev train.

  3. Allan says:

    Now what would I expect a study from a RAIL consultant to say about maglev? DUH!

    It’s full of misleading comparisons and several “may” this or “may” that … in other words, we don’t really know but it “may” happen … then again, it may not.

    Actually, the study is in line with what I’ve been saying. If you don’t want to spend the money for “true” high speed, then upgrade existing rail to hand “fast” or “high performance” rail.

    However, if you want “true” high speed, the maglev is the way to go.

    For an article that offers a fine rebuttal, from the other side, read Kevin Coates’ article:

    I’ll leave you with this thought … Japan has committed to replacing its bullet train with a maglev.

  4. Andrew in Ezo says:

    “I’ll leave you with this thought … Japan has committed to replacing its bullet train with a maglev”

    Uh, not exactly. JR Central (which is building the maglev line), is building it to partially relieve the existing HSR Tokaido Shinkansen Line, which is operating at capacity (3 minute headways between trains being the norm). Thus the maglev line will supplement, not replace HSR. It must be noted that all other high speed lines currently being built (or planned) in Japan are conventional rail, including the one being built to my home region in Hokkaido.

  5. There was a previous study back in 2000-2002 that included an evaluation of more-typical high-speed-rail lines, such as Acela and European trains. Such lines proved to be slower, of course, and not that much cheaper, but only the true 190-mph trains offered trip time advantages to compete with automobiles in the corridor. And the train compatibililty issue, if one ever existed in this area, could be handled at end stations.

    Did I miss a conference? All over the country train proponents keep saying maglev has an issue with interoperability, since HSR can travel on dedicated track and on existing track and maglev can’t — so what?

  6. It makes me want to renounce my birthplace of Tennessee to read this kind of drivel.

    I am getting more and more afraid that this kind of stupidity will result in:

    1. No or little improvement to our present passenger rail “network” and
    I use ” ” because network is questionable as it is.

    2. Money wasted and more ammunition for the next batch of neocons
    to fight down any rail expansion with.

  7. Woody says:

    Right, Jerry. The politicians in Pennsylvania and in Congress got $28 million to piss away on a Maglev study.
    What’s the alternative?

    Just a couple of years ago, the State of Illinois decided to boost its funding of in-state passenger rail. For about $13 million more a year they got two trains added St Louis-Springfield-Chicago, one more train added Quincy-Galesburg-Chicago and one more Carbondale-Champaign-Chicago.

    The new St Louis-Chicago runs increased the number of trains by 67%, and the total number of passengers on the route increased by 95%.

    So Pennsylvania could try to add two or three more daily trains running Pittsburgh-Harrisburg-Phily for a couple of years and still have money left over to run something down the tracks to Cleveland, Or they can piss away the whole $28 Mil on a study of a technology passed on by every train-building country in Europe.

    Granted that a couple more daily trains at Amtrak speed would not be fast. But they would not be pie levitated into the sky either.

  8. It is clear by now that the high-speed rail debate in the USA includes many elements, depending on the region in question — incremental high-speed rail operating at 79-90 mph; “emerging” high-speed rail operating at 110 mph or less; non-electrified HSR operating at 110 – 150 mph; electrified Acela-style HSR operating at 150 mph+; European/Asian HSR operating at 190 – 200-mph+; and maglev, operating at 250 – 310 mph.

    Political will and funds will carry the day, as always, in this debate, so rail proponents just need to prove their contention that rail is a better investment than maglev. Nothing to worry about there.

    European countries have passed on building maglev lines for several reasons, only one of which is that there is already a solid HSR structure in place, one that is growing daily to fill out the European Union. Maglev is simply not a basic necessity in this market. The U.S. is in a different position, given its general neglect of rail over the past 60 years, so the field of options is more wide open. Any region of the country should be able to study any technology it wishes if it is convinced it needs surface transportation upgrading.

  9. Mad Park says:

    @8 – There will be no “non-electric” trains running above 110 MPH – you know that. There will be no more Acela-style trains/tanks – you know that, too. There will be no “mag-lev” vehicles operating in the US, at least in this century, as there is no way for those vehicles to operate into cites on standard rails – you know that so well it should be ringing in your ears. Political will for most any kind of improvement in passenger is almost entirely absent in the US – you know that too. To ask that the taxpayers spend the tiny down payment of US$8B for higher speed transport on some pie in the sky, unproven system is irresponsible at best, and counterproductive at worst.

  10. @9: I actually do not know such things as you say, especially that maglevs will not be operating in the U.S in this century. That’s a projection of your opinion, which I do not share.

  11. Allan says:

    Mad Park – “There will be no “non-electric” trains running above 110 MPH – you know that.”

    Why not? We had diesel passenger trains running at 130 mph in the 30s.

    Mad Park – “Political will for most any kind of improvement in passenger is almost entirely absent in the US…”

    A true statement that begs the question, “Why isn’t there the political will?”

    Simply because the taxpayer sees little benefit for spending the enormous amount of money for HSR or Maglev. And they see continuous operating and maintenance shortfalls that must be covered by the taxpayers.

    You definitely can get more bang for the buck by upgrading existing lines to HPR (High Performance Rail or emerging rail as it is also known) that will reach more people.

    But when you start dreaming of HSR or Maglev, the costs go up tremendously and people wonder, why should my taxes go for a HSR in CA when I don’t even have Amtrak? That’s when you meet resistance and politicians loose their will.

  12. Jakub Holic says:

    “as there is no way for those vehicles to operate into cites on standard rails”
    – That, in fact, is a big advantage. In Japan, they built special tracks for their HSR even in cities and it made it much faster, and with almost no delays. The same it is with maglev. Using it’s own track, it can accelerate right from the station and it is not influenced by other trains. Also building new platforms and tracks for Maglev in existing train stations, is much easier, then doing the same with HSR. Maglev is also much more quiet, so it can run thru the cities at 200 km/h.

  13. Lebron says:

    I have read several articles on high speed rail. I have concluded that Maglev is the best option for Chattanooga. I live in the area and there isn’t any real rail infrastructure in the area. Atleast not to provide for high speed trains. Since we will be starting from scratch the Maglev system is the best. I have also read that there is an Amerincan company devoloping this technology and making it cheaper. This system would put a lot of Americans back to work.

  14. @ Lebron: I agree with you that maglev could be a viable option for the Atlanta-Chattanooga-Nashville corridor, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in any American companies providing alternative systems, at least not high-speed systems, any time soon.

    The The Germans and now the Japanese have perfected their high-speed maglev technologies over decades of full-scale testing. They are ready now to be offered as commercial products.

    No American company can be ready with a viable high-speed maglev for another 15-20 years, if then, from what I know.

  15. Lebron says:

    I wished I could remember the article I was reading about the American company. The summary is as follows: The American company employs workers that formly worked for NASA. They aren’t developing brand new technology, but advancing the current technoloyg in order to make it cheaper. They are also developing ways to make the rail system cheaper. They are also looking at hybrid solutions. The problem I see is a politic issue. I don’t think the state or federal govenment has the back bone or vision to really implement high speed train service. I know that the federal government has issued millions in grant money to study the proposal in our area. I just think it is going to be a waste of money. They’re going to say it cost x amount of dollors and GA and TN politicians are going to run and hide.

  16. Unfortunately, nothing will happen without some technical, environmental and business studies being done first. These studies cost millions, yes, but those weak-willed politicians in Georgia and Tennessee you point out will need to have some assurances that they’re not eventually being sold a pig in a poke, as the saying goes.

  17. Jakub Holic says:

    Sometimes it is dificult to compare the advantages of both systems, because you cannot fit them in the same categories.
    So if category would be High-speed trains, we would understand it to be trains for long distances with short travel times. HSR is ok for this definition, but not completely maglev. For maglev trains, “long-distance” means something different. If there is a HSR route, the trains will go directly to endstation. At the time they reach it, maglev would be already on way back, even it would stop in several stations on the way. Average speed would be just a little bit higher, but it would take passangers between more cities on the route.

  18. Brandon Burns says:

    I really hope we have a maglev train from Nashville to Atlanta in 10 years. Travel time would be so short.

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