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NEW CASTLE Maglev company pushes for funding



Published: Sat, September 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The company wants $60 million to build a 3.5-mile test track that would guide a train at 150 mph.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A city business intends to lobby state officials for $120 million to bring a high-speed train to the area that eventually would link New Castle to Youngstown.

Stephen Kuznetsov, president of Power Superconductor Applications Corp., proposes to bring a magnetic levitation train to the area, similar to one just installed at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

At a demonstration Friday, he showed off the technology his company used to provide the motors used in the ODU train, which is expected to begin transporting students next month. It would be the first magnetic levitation, or maglev, train to operate in this country.

How it works

Maglev trains have no wheels, but instead glide about a half-inch over the track.

Maglev uses a series of electric motors and magnets to cause the train to float above the tracks and travel at speeds up to 250 mph.

The university project cost $14 million for 4,000 feet of track and one 52-passenger train that goes 40 mph, though the system is to be expanded later. It was paid for with private funds and university money.

Kuznetsov's company provided the motors for American Maglev Technologies of Florida, which managed the project.

Local project

Kuznetsov hopes the two companies can combine next on a train for this area.

He said he thinks state officials would be interested in funding it because they don't want all large projects to go to the state's major cities. Having his company based in New Castle also should be a factor, he said.

His hope is to get $60 million in state funds next year for a 3.5-mile test track that would guide a train at 150 mph. He said he has received permission to borrow a maglev train that was used in U.S. research programs in the 1970s. This train would be retrofitted with his new motor design, which would allow the train to float four inches over the track so it would not likely be affected by snow and ice.

He hopes to receive another $60 million in two years to extend the track to seven miles, at which time it could be used commercially. The train would travel at 250 mph. Eventually, the track could be extended to Youngstown with private money, he said.

600 jobs

He said the project would create 600 jobs at his company and his suppliers, such as Bruce and Merilee, a local electrical contractor.

Kuznetsov, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate who has worked in maglev research since the 1970s, said the electrical company recruited him to locate his company in its industrial park seven years ago.

He said his company, which employs 10, has provided magnetic propulsion systems for two roller coasters and for the launching of planes from aircraft carriers.

Federal project

Kuznetsov has been fighting a federal maglev project for years because it is on track to use a German company's propulsion system. That project, which would result in $800 million in federal funding, has narrowed its selection to two proposals -- one from Pittsburgh and the other from Baltimore.

Kuznetsov said he hopes that federal officials will see they don't have to use a foreign system and will take another look at his system.

shilling@vindy.com




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