Behind the Lens: A $16 Million Flop

Photos and musings from photographer David Kidd.
by | December 21, 2018 AT 12:13 PM
maglev train Old Dominion University
(David Kidd)

Nearly 20 years ago, plans were approved for a magnetic levitation, or maglev, train that would whisk students across the campus of Virginia's Old Dominion University riding on a thin cushion of air.

By 2002, an elevated concrete and steel guideway was constructed across the Norfolk, Va., school. The state kicked in nearly half of the project's $16 million price tag. A blue-and-white train car was set upon the track, and tests were run.

But the maglev proved to be more complicated than originally thought.

The car never traveled more than a short distance, at speeds far less than the promised 40 miles per hour. More test runs took place over the next few years -- some of them paid for by selling most of the metal track as scrap.

The last of the three stations was demolished in 2010. But a 3,200-foot overhead concrete guideway remains. Today, students at Old Dominion use it as a landmark and to provide a small amount of protection from sun and rain.

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David Kidd | Design Director | dkidd@governing.com