That’s when it’s expected that developers will present for the first time at a public forum their concept for a KSU-to-Cumberland-to-Perimeter magnetic-levitatation (“maglev,” for short) rail transit system.
Tony Morris of American Maglev Technology argues that his system would be faster, technologically superior and far less expensive than the tax-burning light rail system now on the table that would connect the MARTA station in Midtown Atlanta with the Cumberland area and, by 2025 or so, with Kennesaw State University and Acworth. Unlike the Maglev proposal, the TSPLOST would not fund a line along the badly congested Cumberland-to-Perimeter arc of Interstate 285.
Morris has said a maglev train could be built for around $20 million per mile, far less than the Federal Transit Administration’s light-rail estimate of $100 million per mile.
Rather than the “steel wheels-on-steel rail” technology employed by railroads, which has a multitude of moving parts and high maintenance costs, a maglev train uses magnetic levitation to elevate the train by 3/8 of an inch over its tracks.
“When it’s lifted up, it’s weightless — you can even push it because there is no friction. It takes the energy equivalent of 15 hairdryers to lift it, so it’s very energy efficient. There’s no resistance, no friction, and it’s essentially like skiing or ice skating down the track,” Morris told the MDJ in a profile last February. “It uses just enough energy for wind resistance, to go up hills, that sort of thing.”
When the train arrives at its destination, it is gently lowered back onto the tracks within a split second. Morris says maglev requires 60 percent less energy to run that a traditional transit rail line. He also claims his system would be much faster, with speeds up to 60 mph. Some critics have noted that based on the expected TSPLOST rail routes and number of stops, the TSPLOST light rail would have an average speed of only 18 mph.
Morris’ company is competing to build maglev lines in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in Guadalajara, Mexico. Maglev trains have been built in Japan, China and Germany, using a high-tech guideway. AMT would take the opposite (and it claims, less expensive) approach, having “dumb” tracks and putting the magnets and controls in the vehicle.
Morris has hosted a steady stream of political and media types (including most of the Around Town team) at his company’s office on Burrow Trail in the woods along the Thornton Road Connector in Powder Springs, where AMT built a quarter-mile-long track in 2006. The visitors get to see maglev technology in action, complete with a full-scale operational vehicle.
“I’m a Campbell (High School) grad, I grew up in Smyrna, went to school at Georgia Tech, and have been living in Marietta for decades, so this is my home,” Morris told the Journal. “We were very lucky to find a spot that’s been so good to us,” Morris said.
IF THE MAGLEV OPTION withstands scrutiny, it stands to turn the politics of TSPLOST on its head.
Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee (who is up for re-election next summer) has “doubled down” in favor of the Midtown-to-Cumberland light rail line favored by the Atlanta Regional Commission and his backers in the Cobb Chamber of Commerce and the Cumberland Improvement District. The lion’s share, or $856.5 million, of Cobb’s expected revenues from the TSPLOST, was originally earmarked for the line. But flack from the public, much of which sees the line as a way of back-dooring MARTA rail into Cobb, and at the expense of badly needed improvements to local roads and expressways, caused Lee to eventually support a plan that shifts $176.5 million from the rail line to various road projects, and which also takes $110 million from the rail line to pay for an upgraded “premium” bus line in the I-75 corridor.
Now Commissioner Ott, who has been sharply critical of Lee and the TSPLOST’s emphasis on the Midtown-to-Atlanta rail, has raised the stakes by, in effect, seeming to throw his support behind the maglev alternative. Not only would it be cheaper (at least as advertised), it also would go where commuting patterns show people are going (i.e., toward the Perimeter/Ga. 400 corridor); as opposed to where Cumberland/Chamber interests wish they were going (toward Atlanta). It also raises the question of why Lee and the Cobb Department of Transportation have shown no apparent interest to date in exploring what appears to be a highly competitive, much less expensive alternative to his TSPLOST rail plan — and a proposal that’s “home-grown,” to boot.
Ott’s town hall will run from 7-9 p.m. The East Cobb Library is at 4880 Lower Roswell Road. For more on American Maglev Technology, go to www.american-maglev.com.
GEORGIA TEA PARTY officials will hold a “No Tax for Tracks” rally on the steps of the state Capitol at noon Saturday. Notes the press release for the event:
“If taxpayers are going to pay $6 billion in taxes, taxpayers should get $6 billion worth in projects that will alleviate traffic congestion. The TSPLOST is a combination of projects, with billions of dollars planned for projects that are not traffic-related.
“The proposed plan will take maintenance and upkeep for years beyond the 10-year plan, requiring extended taxation. This could become a permanent transportation tax!
“Only the most cost-effective projects which deliver the best traffic solutions should have been included on the projects list.”
Speakers are to include frequent MDJ guest columnist Ron Sifen of Vinings, Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown, Dalton Mayor David Pennington and Tea Party leaders Julianne Thompson and Field Searcy.
POLITICS: The Cobb Elections office is handling polling for three of the five cities that are having elections today, and by coincidence those three — Kennesaw, Powder Springs and Smyrna — all have contested mayoral races on the ballot.
Janine Eveler, director of Cobb Elections, reports that of the three, Smyrna had the most early ballots cast, with 710 voters in that city going to the polls between Oct. 17 and last Friday, during the early/advance voting period.
In Kennesaw, 310 voters have already cast their ballots, and in Powder Springs, 183 voters have done so.
“We don’t really have enough historical data to know if there’s a correlation between a high advance voting turnout and a higher overall turnout,” Eveler told the MDJ. “But if there is a correlation, then Smyrna’s turnout should be almost twice what it was in 2007 and Kennesaw should be about a third less.”
FORMER Cobb Commission Chairman Bill Byrne, who’s running for his old seat again next year, will be guest speaker at Wednesday’s 10:30 a.m. Veterans’ Day memorial at Parkland Manor Independent Senior Community in Austell.
PEOPLE: Davis Webb of Marietta was named Homecoming King on Saturday in Athens, where the Georgia Bulldogs put a 63-16 whuppin’ on New Mexico State. Webb is a graduate of Marietta High, is majoring in Finance and International Affairs at UGA and is due to graduate in December 2012. His sister, Natalie, was crowned Homecoming Queen between the hedges in 2007 and has been traveling the country for Mutual of Omaha, producing and filming its TV commercials. The two are the children of Dr. and Mrs. Randy Webb of Marietta.
THE ANNUAL Cobb County Republican Women’s Club Veteran’s Celebration Brunch will be Nov. 19 at the Marietta Hilton Conference Center and will feature local country music DJ “Moby” as emcee, reports Nancy Bodiford. Keynote speaker will be former Navy SEAL Howard Wasdin, author of “SEAL Team Six.” The social starts at 9 and brunch at 10. Ticket prices are $20 for veterans, $30 for CCRWC members and $35 for guests. For more, call (770) 785-2522. … Veterans are invited to eat free at Dave Poe’s BBQ on Whitlock Ave., on Friday from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.