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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Major Changes Envisioned for Texas' Transportation Network

May 2, 2002

What are the workable solutions to intercity passenger and freight transportation problems foreseen for Texas over the next 20 to 50 years? Civil engineering students at The University of Texas at Arlington's College of Engineering are solving that puzzle.

Funded by a two-year, $220,000 research grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, a team of 25 graduate students and their faculty advisors in the Civil Engineering Department are investigating ways to move more people and goods efficiently, safely and in less time. The team started a year ago with seven possible concepts, which included existing highways and technologies, plus methods that are now only in the concept stage. In addition, they considered funding sources and construction costs. They have narrowed their focus to two things they believe will have the most influence on ground transportation - fuel cells and magnetic levitation (maglev).

"It's an evolution of inefficient systems," says Civil Engineering Senior Lecturer Shekhar Govind, principal investigator for the project. "Fuel cells will soon be more energy efficient than internal combustion engines, and maglev trains can transport people and goods quietly at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour." Moving heavy goods via maglev trains would not only ease traffic congestion and improve highway safety, it would also greatly reduce highway maintenance requirements. It is estimated that one loaded 18-wheeler can cause as much wear on the roadway as 20,000 compact cars. Currently, taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel provide the funding for highway construction and maintenance. The team is examining how alternative fuels, including fuel cells, will affect this income. Maglev trailer-trains could link transfer points in major Texas cities, but how would they interconnect with existing interstate systems? Finally, developing maglev systems would move the Department of Transportation away from its current concentration on roads and highways. Does this mean more public/private initiatives?

The team will present its initial findings to Department of Transportation officials this month. The team's eventual conclusions will allow the department to be proactive, rather than reactive, in dealing with changes in transportation technologies, routes and future population and economic growth.