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Orlando Maglev experiencing struggles, and OIA has questions

The Maglev transportation system that was proposed to link Orlando International Airport and the Orange County Convention Center, with a stop at Florida Mall, has run into tough times.

Work that was supposed to begin this month on the first magnetically levitated train in the US has been pushed off until at least December. And officials at OIA say they will have to do a lot more study and receive more answers before they commit to allowing Maglev to dock at the new intermodal facility they plan to complete in 2017.

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"Things are not going as well as we hoped," said Tony Morris, CEO of American Maglev Technology, which has proposed the $400 million system. "We hoped to start sooner."

Morris said a lot of the difficulty was navigating the red tape of the various public entities he has to deal with as he tries to move forward with a private project. "The biggest obstacle is it is a completely new paradigm," he said. "The whole approach of doing transportation with private funds has been challenging."

Right now, Morris said, the project "is in the design phase."

He said he does have a backer: a large foreign builder of trains and toll roads.

While he declined to name the company, people close to the situation said it is Globalvia of Spain, one of the world's leading companies in the management of infrastructure assets.

"We had been out looking for financing for the past five years," Morris said.

Key for the Maglev is using the airport's intermodal structure as its main terminal. The site is planned to be complete in mid-2017 and Morris said, "We want to be there."

But a litany of concerns will have to be addressed before the airport gives Maglev a berth.

"We are deep in due diligence," said Phil Brown, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

Among other things, Brown cited regulatory certification, concerns about Morris' ridership study, reliability of the system and how this particular driverless system operates in different conditions.

"We have questions about the operations, the safety and any revenue impacts to the airport, and we want to get those answered before we sit down and enter into an agreement," Brown said.

The intermodal terminal is likely to be a stop for All Aboard Florida, SunRail, an airport people mover and has room for another rail carrier, which was thought by many to be Maglev. Brown said the airport is not being pursued or pursuing anyone else at this time.

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