Colorado Department of Transportation - Magnetic Levitation Research



The Colorado Department of Transportation has entered into a "Memorandum of Understanding" to conduct research and development under the federal Urban Magnetic Levitation program. The other parties to this agreement are:

Colorado Intermountain Fixed Guideway Authority (CIFGA)

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)

MagLev Transit Group (MTG)

In 1999, CIFGA and SNL were identified by the US Congress to each receive $1.75M to study and develop magnetic levitation technology for use in urban transit. MTG was selected, based on competitive proposals, by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to receive $742,000 to conduct magnetic levitation research.

CDOT is receiving these $4,242,000 in grant funds through a cooperative agreement with the FTA and is contracting with the three participants to conduct the research and development. The state funds being used for appropriately related analysis in the ongoing I-70 west Programmatic Environmental Impact Study (I-70 PEIS) provide the required match. The I-70 PEIS study is expected to be result in a Record of Decision in 2004.

CDOT is working in partnership with the other groups involved to provide accurate and complete information regarding possible advanced technology alternatives for the I-70 West Corridor. Information about this system, along with information on other fixed guideway systems, and highway, rubber-tire transit (bus), and other transportation alternatives, will be used to determine a preferred alternative for a long-term plan for the corridor.


1. Identification of the best urban maglev system or set of sub-systems (levitation systems, propulsionmotor system, guideway, and vehicles) where the situation is similar to the I-70 west corridor.  Safety, security, and integration of all the components will be considered.

2. Identification of parameters that will make a viable system for the corridor: system performance, routing, station design parameters, vehicle design, power alternatives, greenhouse gas emissions, economics, innovative financing, commercialization, etc.

3. Advance the SERAPHIM motor from the concept stage to the design stage. Static and dynamic testing of a scaled motordel will be performed to establish thrust, lift, heating, efficiency, and other design and performance parameters. These parameters can then be used for comparing it with other systems.

All the parties will be working together to assure that these research objectives are met, however, the primary focus for each is as follows: Objective 1 - MTG, Objective 2 - CIFGA, and Objective 3 - SNL.

CIFGA will provide information to the I-70 mountain corridor PEIS about the application of advanced technology in the I-70 West Corridor. Design and construction of a full-scale prototype system would proceed depending upon the selection of a preferred alternative in the programmatic EIS. If appropriate, CDOTthey will seek funding under phase 2 and 3 of the federal program described below for design and construction of a full-scale prototype system and eventual deployment in the I-70 West Corridor, depending upon the selection of the modes that would form the preferred alternative..

FTA's Urban Magnetic Levitation Transit Program

The Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Urban Magnetic Levitation Transit Technology Development Program (Urban Maglev Program) was authorized by federal law and described in a January 29, 1999 Federal Register Notice. The program seeks to improve one or more Maglev technologies (both superconducting and non-superconducting types) using advancements resulting from American technology research and development. FTA's program, consists of three phases: (1) Evaluation of Proposed System Concepts, (2) Prototype Subsystems Development, and (3) System Integration and Deployment Planning. The program is intended to develop an advanced technology Maglev system for specific identified deployment locations. The Colorado effort is one of several similar programs.

Funded Phase 1 Projects now in progress:

General Atomics Corporation (GA) team will develop low speed magnetic levitation technology in the following main task areas (1) system studies, (2) base technology development (including technical risk identification and resolution), (3) route specific requirements, and (4) projection of overall system performance and a preliminary design for a full scale demonstration system concept. Currently they are evaluating a demonstration site in Pennsylvania. Contact: Sam Gurol;

Colorado Department of Transportation is contracting with Maglev Transit Group, Sandia National Laboratory and the Colorado Intermountain Fixed Guideway Authority to formulate an advanced technology alternative that incorporates urban maglev parameters and constraints derived from the varied terrain and weather conditions found in the mountainous areas between the Denver metropolitan area and Eagle Valley. The corridor extends from Denver International Airport west along the mountainous I-70 corridor. This route is very demanding, with at least one stretch of 8% or higher grade and subject to very severe weather conditions. The steep grade and severe weather requirements provide rigorous performance targets for an urban maglev transit system that can be built anywhere in the United States. Contact person:

MagneMotion will lead the development of a key Maglev technology or future implementation in transportation systems serving traffic-congested urban areas. A principal element of the MagneMotion Urban Maglev system is the use of bus-size vehicles that can operate with short headway under automatic control. By using the company's long-stator linear synchronous motor technology each vehicle can be propelled with accelerating and decelerating forces up to 0.25 g and can achieve top speeds in excess of 45 m/s (100+ mph). The combination of high acceleration, high speed and short headway is not possible with legacy transit systems that depend on wheels for traction. Although Maglev systems are capable of much higher speeds over long distances, this program focuses on a lower speed implementation in an urban setting. A Maglev system offering 100 mph service represents a marked improvement over commuter rail systems that might approach 50 mph and also offers additional benefits in areas such as reduced noise and air pollution and reduced maintenance.

The Maglev Urban System Associates Team, a consortium led by Earth Tech (formerly ICFKaiser Engineers) and Chubu-HSST of Japan will examine, in detail, the Japanese developed low-speed Maglev technology, its applicability for use in the United States, and, whether the technology can be "Americanized" for use in the United States within a few years. Two reports (2002 and 2003) are now available and the Executive Summaries are on-line.

Maglev 2000 of Florida Corporation is establishing the feasibility of a super conducting electrodynamic suspension (repulsive force) technology based on the concept of American scientists Drs. Gordon Danby and James Powell. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a superconducting electrodynamic suspension (repulsive force) maglev technology based on the concept developed by Drs. Gordon Danby and James Powell. For details contact: Charles Smith, Maglev 2000 of Florida Corporation,Titusville, FL; Tel: 707 399-8638; e-mail:

Sandia National Laboratories is developing their Segmented Rail Phased Induction Motor (SERAPIM), a new type of linear induction motor offering unique capabilities for high-thrust, high-speed propulsion for urban maglev transit, advanced monorail, and other forms of high-speed ground transportation.

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Last modified: September 06, 2003