Hearings Today on Hydrogen-Solar-Maglev Supertrain for Michigan

State’s legislature, foolish as ever, contends that the plan is worth consideration.

Back in March, the State of Michigan announced that it would hold hearings on a proposal for a new mass transit system to run between Detroit and Lansing. The Interstate Traveler Company promises to build a 200 mph maglev train, running on hydrogen and solar power, along the right-of-way of several highways. The project would be financed completely through private means. Today, the first of those hearings will be held in the state legislature.

The Interstate Traveler Company has done little more than provide a series of graphics to support its claim that it knows how to create a true high-speed rail system. Its founder, Justin Sutton, has no experience with the rail industry, but he’s won a prize from the American Computer Science Association. That organization is currently promoting the idea that Bill and Hillary Clinton are supporting terrorism and which refers to the President as “Mr. O’Bamma.” Nonetheless, Tim Hoeffner, administrator of high-speed rail for the Michigan DOT, thinks Mr. Sutton’s project is worth examining.

Yet there is little evidence thus far presented that demonstrates how this project could be built at the advertised minimal cost of $15 million a mile or that several miles of track could be built each day, as the website claims. The project’s reliance on solar power for energy production is similarly difficult to believe in a place as overcast as Michigan. The vehicles’ design is questionable at best. The company’s proposals for a horse transporter and moving surgery center are strange.

Michigan has a good chance of receiving funds for a new — traditional — high-speed rail line between Detroit and Chicago; the federal government’s $13 billion commitment to fast trains could spark renewal in many of that state’s declining cities. But the Interstate Traveler Company is not the place to start. How soon will the state’s legislators figure that out?

Detroit Michigan

Insanity Rears its Ugly Head in Michigan

Michigan Hydrogen Train ProposalState is now considering private proposal for elevated, hydrogen-powered maglev trains from Detroit to Lansing and Ann Arbor

The Detroit Free Press reports today that the Michigan State House is holding hearings on whether to consider a private plan to build a maglev rail line between Detroit and Lansing, the state capital, and Detroit and Ann Arbor, where the main state university is located. The company making the proposal, Interstate Traveler Company, claims that it could build the $2.3 billion system without public money, as long as it gets to use highway right-of-way for free. As an added bonus, profits would be split 50-50 with the government, and the line could begin construction by 2010! Does it get any better?

Yes! The line would have stations at every interchange along I-96, the trains would be built by Detroit auto manufacturers (of course), and the system would be designed to handle passengers, freight, and cars! The lines themselves would carry electricity, fiber optics, and hydrogen gas, allowing them to act like giant utility lines. Trains would travel at 200 mph.

Perhaps most astonishing of all, “fares could be 5 cents a mile.” That means a trip between Detroit and Lansing would cost… $4.50!

To put it mildly, this plan is completely ridiculous. Not only does little of the technology these entrepreneurs are advocating exist, but they’ve invented a financing system that seems to rely more on witchcraft than reality. The fact that Michigan’s legislators are taking this proposal seriously enough to consider it in a legislative session reaffirms my sense that the state is on the edge of complete collapse.

Image above: Interstate Traveler System, from Interstate Traveler Company