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American ShipperIntermodalWarehouse

Congressional panel supports SoCal cargo maglev system

Congressional panel supports SoCal cargo maglev system

A bipartisan Congressional group along with local elected officials said Feb. 28 they support developing a magnetic levitation drayage system extending from the two Southern California ports to warehouses and distribution centers in the Inland Empire.

   Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., 46th, said the Electrodynamic Cargo Conveyor maglev system developed by San Diego-based General Atomics is both technically and fiscally feasible.

   “The ECCO system has the potential to be less costly, with less pollution, less congestion and the system would pay for itself,' Rohrabacher said in a statement following a Capitol Hill press conference on the system.

   Maglev technology utilizes the repulsive force of a series of electromagnets to float a vehicle above a track and propel it forward.


A cargo container aboard an ECCO research vehicle at General Atomics test track in San Diego.

   General Atomics and California State University, Long Beach University are developing the ECCO system, a cargo carrying design based on passenger maglev technology developed by Lawrence Livermore labs. While numerous maglev technologies exist, the ECCO system is unique in that the train vehicle does not have active magnets in it. The design utilizes passive magnets built into the vehicle meaning that even if power is cut to the system, the vehicle keeps floating. This design alleviates the need for power to be supplied to the vehicle, reducing the complexity and expense of the system while increasing the safety.

   The ECCO system also allows for a much greater distance to exist between the track and the vehicle. The ECCO offers a one-inch clearance while other systems require a very precise clearance that is many times smaller. This allows the ECCO track to be built to much less rigid tolerances, further reducing costs. In addition, because the tracks do not have to reach the near perfect flatness of other systems, the tracks can be quicker and have a much smaller profile, allowing for construction along existing roadways or rail routes.

   Rohrabacher, joined by Congresswoman Laura Richardson, D-Calif., 37th, and Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong who chairs the council’s Federal Legislation Committee, said they called together representatives from General Dynamics, CSULB, the U.S. Department of Transportation and others to 'discuss the next tangible steps to make the ECCO a reality.'

   Rohrabacher said establishing a joint powers authority among the cities of Southern California would be the first step.

   Once the JPA is established, Rohrabacher believes work can begin on the first phase of the development: a 1.5-mile track from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to nearby intermodal yard. The goal is to start work on construction within three years with the system eventually stretching to Victorville and Beaumont in the Inland Empire, he said.

   Also joining the three Southern California officials were Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn.; Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif.; Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.; and South Gate Mayor Gil Hurtado.

   Rohrabacher did not offer financial details of the plan or who would pay for it.

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