The AMT Story
The Maglev initiative began in Atlanta during the early 1990s, when city leaders were contemplating how to handle the influx of visitors and the endless traffic congestion associated with upcoming Olympic Games. Transit initiatives had been shuffled and ultimately pushed aside, as there proved to be no flexible, affordable, environmentally friendly solution that could be market-ready in time for the event.
These discussions sparked a string of conversations between a Georgia Tech civil engineering alumnus and an esteemed electrical engineering professor, and the friendship that ensued would eventually result in the incorporation of American Maglev of Florida Inc. in 1994. Under a unique initiative to improve mobility, decrease the ever-growing reliance on the automobile, and re-engineer maglev technology to provide affordable transit solutions, we assembled a world-class engineering team and constructed a test track in Edgewater, FL in 1994. It was here in Edgewater, with the support of the local government, that the foundations of AMT were set. At its Edgewater facility, AMT was able to successfully develop and test its first magnetic levitation theories.
After years of successful levitation and propulsion testing in the rural Florida swamp, we were awarded its first project on the campus of Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia in December 2000.
Despite bringing more than $9 million to the project in private funding—not to mention a significant portion of the Edgewater test track—inevitable delays caused by transit and federal funding agencies delayed groundbreaking until 2001. In July 2001, AMT finally broke ground on the ODU project. Simultaneously, engineers in Edgewater were continuing to test the technology to ensure a smooth transition at ODU.
Thirty-seven days after groundbreaking, the civil works portion of the project was complete. The incredible momentum of the campus peoplemover research project prompted a momentous groundbreaking ceremony, capped by a rousing speech by Virginia’s then-Lt. Gov. John Hagar:
“…I thank you for daring to go beyond the conventional image of what a “University” is supposed to do. And I thank you for ignoring the skeptics and recognizing that the price of progress is risk. You may not realize it today, but this may well be the best lesson you can pass on to Virginia’s leaders of tomorrow – as was the case with the pioneers of 400 years ago, the timid need not apply.”
Lt. Hagar spoke these words two weeks before 9/11. Needless to say, such circumstances delayed much of the federal funding in lieu of new security, defense and wartime initiatives. Despite securing a minimal amount of additional private investment, much of the project was placed on hold until budgetary demands were fulfilled.
The Federal Government finally released the funds to ODU in 2004. However, the government only provided $2 million of the $7 million it had promised at the onset of the project. Of the $2 million, $1.5 million was distributed to ODU for research purposes and $500,000 was distributed to AMT. All of the funds were used to pay off prior commitments to patiently waiting contractors and vendors.
AMT continued to work on the project for free, despite many budgetary struggles and a few technological oversights. One such oversight was the reaction between the vehicle and the elevated guideway. All levitation and propulsion testing at the Edgewater test facility had been completed on solid ground. AMT was assured by its engineers and team of strategic partners that there would not be any problem in transitioning the vehicle from solid ground onto an elevated guideway. There was in fact a problem. The vehicle was not as flexible as the engineers first thought; the stiff vehicle combined with the flexible beams of the elevated guideway created problems with levitation. As it turns out, there was a very simple solution to this problem. The vehicle needed to have a proper suspension system in order to make it more flexible. This solution, however, became apparent after the project was put to rest due to lack of funding.
In late 2005, ODU informed AMT that the project was much better suited as a part of the campus research program, and that AMT’s role in the project had been fulfilled. We continue our relationship with ODU and maintains contact regarding research and continued interest in maglev.
In spring 2006, with support from new investors in its technology, we proceeded with the development of maglev, breaking ground on a new, full-scale test site in Powder Springs, GA. By summer 2007, it was fully operational with components and efforts from 119 companies representing 5 countries, 26 U.S. states and 77 congressional districts. All speed, stability, automation and levitation testing surpassed all expectations, essentially “glitch-free” from the earlier days of its development. Mayors, councilmen, congressmen, transit authorities, investors and other community figures from all over the world have visited the suburban Georgia site.