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(DFW Star-Telegram)   Electromagnetic "freight shuttle" aims to take thousands of trucks off of I-35 in six years   (star-telegram.com) divider line 96
    More: Cool, Freight Shuttle, Texas Transportation Institute, Union Pacific, I-35, Borders of Mexico, Texas Department of Transportation, Dallas-Fort Worth, logistics  
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4754 clicks; posted to Business » on 08 Jun 2012 at 1:23 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-06-08 03:15:45 PM  

Dancin_In_Anson: CmndrFish: I don't see how this is a government farkup.

Are we talking about the article I posted?


Yes, in reference to the California rail. Sounds more like an issue of over-promise (which, frankly may have been necessary to sell it to a fickle electorate who doesn't understand how hard these kind of projects are) than the traditional "government sucks at running things" situation.
 
2012-06-08 03:21:53 PM  

Nightmaretony: [cache.rcdb.com image 639x800]

magnetic launcher past prototyping stage.


But... but... but... was it tested on hauling dead weight... say an ex-wife?
 
2012-06-08 03:22:25 PM  

CmndrFish: New infrastructure takes a long time to build, especially when you have to eminent domain a lot of land in densely populated areas. I don't see how this is a government farkup. In fact, I really believe that you'd be hard pressed to find a private group that could do it any faster. Hell, the private sector would probably never even be able to finish it, because they'd never be able to get all of the land required.


In the article, they were talking about the Texas State Govt allowing the construction of this to happen in the I-35 median, which would solve most of the land challenges. You would just need to figure out depot stations at DFW, Austin, San Antonio, Mexico
 
2012-06-08 03:28:25 PM  

CmndrFish: StopLurkListen: OK, it's interesting. I like tech, I like the idea, I like when Americans innovate.

I have one question, though. What problem is this solving?

Energy? Congestion? Speed?

The cynic in me says it's some "small government conservative" who has a company with a product and no customer, and is looking for a gummint teat to latch on to. Why? "Because".

Show WHY this is an improvement over existing methods, and I'll get on board.

Today's freight train travels roughly 20mph, on a good day. This goes 60, which is actually competitive with the current government-subsidized freight transit method of choice (tractor trailers on the highway). Also, the far-and-away number one driver of wear and tear on our nation's roads is semi trucks. Less trucks will lead to less congestion and higher quality roads.

StopLurkListen:
Sure, but railroads exist. This duplicates the function of railroads, but without any of the benefits. (connecting to a national network, standardized equipment, many vendors.) Are there no rail lines connecting those endpoints? Is space at such a premium that you couldn't expand capacity for less than building an entirely new system from scratch? Would potential customers be willing to pay the cost?

Addressed some of these before, but

1. Even modern rail freight is extremely slow, this is much faster.

2. If you take a look at the concept drawing for it in TFA, you'll see that they can more or less load a cargo container or trailer onto a cart and ship it off. electric lines allow for a lot more flexibility because you don't have to store the fuel source with the engine. So, instead of a giant train that take hours if not days to load and unload, thus making it impractical for many goods, you can efficiently make more flexible smaller trains.

3. Many countries have a mix of diesel and electric rail infrastructure. It's not unprecedented.


Totally agree, except to note about point #1: nothing about rail technology limits the speed to the current average speed, low speed could be due to congestion or bad management. There's no reason to believe that a completely new thing would be managed any better.

(And, to a smaller extent, some types of freight are not speed-sensitive. Some customers are willing to accept slow deliveries if the cost is low)
 
2012-06-08 03:43:06 PM  

oldass31: And I don't think it's really necessary to overhaul the national power grid for the sake of a EM track from San Antonio to Austin.


You are correct in this case. But if this monorail system works I am sure that it would be expanded in other states as well.
 
2012-06-08 03:51:10 PM  

JustSeanV67: Nightmaretony: [cache.rcdb.com image 639x800]

magnetic launcher past prototyping stage.

But... but... but... was it tested on hauling dead weight... say an ex-wife?


Do I look like your dead wife?
 
2012-06-08 03:58:23 PM  

CmndrFish: Sounds more like an issue of over-promise (which, frankly may have been necessary to sell it to a fickle electorate who doesn't understand how hard these kind of projects are) than the traditional "government sucks at running things" situation.


So they lied.

Sounds like government suckage to me.
 
2012-06-08 04:06:29 PM  

Minarets: CmndrFish: New infrastructure takes a long time to build, especially when you have to eminent domain a lot of land in densely populated areas. I don't see how this is a government farkup. In fact, I really believe that you'd be hard pressed to find a private group that could do it any faster. Hell, the private sector would probably never even be able to finish it, because they'd never be able to get all of the land required.

In the article, they were talking about the Texas State Govt allowing the construction of this to happen in the I-35 median, which would solve most of the land challenges. You would just need to figure out depot stations at DFW, Austin, San Antonio, Mexico


That comment was in reference to the California High Speed Rail. Sorry for going offtopic and not clearly stating that I was. :P
 
2012-06-08 04:22:48 PM  

The_Sheriff_Is_A_Niiii: flaminio: Unions will never allow something as useful as this.

There's a huge shortage of truck drivers in this country and even if this gets off the ground that freight still has to be hauled from the shuttle to the end user.


ANd THAT as any working man knows is the exclusive territory of the International Brotherhood of Longshoremen and Stevedores

Teamsters v. IBLS....FIGHT!
 
2012-06-08 04:24:15 PM  

Dancin_In_Anson: CmndrFish: Sounds more like an issue of over-promise (which, frankly may have been necessary to sell it to a fickle electorate who doesn't understand how hard these kind of projects are) than the traditional "government sucks at running things" situation.

So they lied.

Sounds like government suckage to me.


Assuming that they consciously lied (I really don't know if they did, but I can see it if they did), people lie to potential investors all the time as well by painting. This is no different really, except the investor is the taxpayer and the press covers the government much more than some entrepreneur who wants to start a rail company.

/both sides are bad!
//so vote... private sector?
///wait, what?
 
2012-06-08 04:27:25 PM  

Guelph35: If they had climate-controlled containers, I think it would be really useful if you could load yourself in your car into one, sleep while you ride overnight, then wake up at your destination city with your car.


Amtrak has something called "the Auto-train" that basically lets you load your car into a frieght train in VA and then ride in the passenger part of the train down to Orlando FL and retrieve it. It's great for "sunbirds"-retirees who move to FLA for the winter- but because Amtrak is stupid, they price the trip so flying down and renting a car for a week is actually cheaper.
 
2012-06-08 04:38:53 PM  
I hear they have one of these in North Haverbrook!
 
2012-06-08 04:40:39 PM  

CmndrFish: so vote... private sector?


Yep.
 
2012-06-08 04:46:45 PM  

oldass31: Wangiss: oldass31: wrenchboy: Nice idea. But where will they get the electricity to power this? The nations power grid can barely handle the load as it is now.
And charging stations for electric vehicles? Can you say blackouts?

Perhaps local power stations using high-efficiency, diesel-powered generators supplemented by all the wind energy that Texas has been installing?

And I don't think it's really necessary to overhaul the national power grid for the sake of a EM track from San Antonio to Austin.

And what about electric vehicle charging? Most of it happens at night when the load is lowest.

And people call me pessimistic....

You farking idiots. Texas has its own power grid.

While you are correct, most of Texas has on it's own power grid, that doesn't really address the actual point he was making.


The point he was making about the national power grid?
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2012-06-08 04:48:28 PM  
Sounds like a scaled-down Trans-Texas Corridor.

Marcus Aurelius

FHWA publishes highway funding statistics. According to 2008 figures (latest available) user fees including fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, and tolls brought in $122 billion. Total road-related spending, from sidewalks to Interstates to police patrols, was $174 billion. Add $20 billion to receipts and $8 billion to expenses if you want to include bonds.
 
2012-06-08 04:52:12 PM  
What happens when it breaks?
 
2012-06-08 04:58:25 PM  

Asako: What happens when it breaks?


Stops.
 
2012-06-08 05:03:46 PM  
YEAY unemployed truck drivers.. What othe jobs can we kill off..
 
2012-06-08 05:17:42 PM  
Ok, this doesn't appear to be a replacement for standard rail traffic, because the system calls for individual containers to be shipped separately - there's no need to make up a train of 80 or 100 cars before you send it off somewhere.

This system also seems more efficient than rail, for a few reasons. It's being built in interstate medians, so it's not going to have to deal with the safety concerns or right-of-way problems that railroads now have to deal with considering they still mostly pass through the middle of towns, have to have crossings, etc. Also, this thing is supposed to be completely automated, so you don't have the human cost of actual engineers/conductors riding the rails (although those jobs are incredibly automated these days, as well). Like was pointed out above, the power source doesn't have to be carried with the car, so that'll make it more efficient in terms of time and energy.

But mostly, this sounds like a good idea because of the way truck freight currently works. Damn near everything coming into Texas out of Mexico crosses over at Laredo, then goes up I-35 until it can spread out onto other interstates. This takes all those trucks, dumps them into the median, and then drops them off at the other interstates, where they can disperse more easily. I-35 is a chokepoint, and by spreading out the distribution of when the trucks get added to the highway system, you ease congestion on the whole thing. And until they finish the I-69 extension, I-35 is the biggest chokepoint in traffic out of Mexico.
 
2012-06-08 05:22:58 PM  

CmndrFish:
That comment was in reference to the California High Speed Rail. Sorry for going offtopic and not clearly stating that I was. :P


That makes more sense then :P
 
2012-06-08 05:33:34 PM  

ZAZ: Sounds like a scaled-down Trans-Texas Corridor.

Marcus Aurelius

FHWA publishes highway funding statistics. According to 2008 figures (latest available) user fees including fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, and tolls brought in $122 billion. Total road-related spending, from sidewalks to Interstates to police patrols, was $174 billion. Add $20 billion to receipts and $8 billion to expenses if you want to include bonds.


I seem to remember $368 B as the total number they threw around for last highway bill. I'd be surprised if it was all spent on highways....
 
2012-06-08 05:56:16 PM  
OH YOU MEAN LIKE DIS
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2012-06-08 06:21:47 PM  
ZAZ:
FHWA publishes highway funding statistics. According to 2008 figures (latest available) user fees including fuel taxes, vehicle taxes, and tolls brought in $122 billion. Total road-related spending, from sidewalks to Interstates to police patrols, was $174 billion.

The thing is, while "road related spending" may be $174 billion, the amount spent by the Feds on actually building and maintaining roads is a little less than half that.

They add in police costs, but don't add in police revenues (income from tickets and fines), for example.
 
2012-06-08 06:40:54 PM  
Yeah, the way I heard it, those growing industrial economies of China and India have things like these all over the place.
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2012-06-08 06:59:55 PM  
Marcus Aurelius

FHWA budget is well under $100 billion per year, from the Highway Trust Fund (part of fuel tax revenue). http://www.dot.gov/budget/2013/fhwa_fy_2013_budget_estimate.pdf The higher figures politicians talk about are total costs of a 5 year (+/-) transportation funding bill, much like trillions in dollars of savings from budget deals are projected totals over a decade.
 
2012-06-08 07:48:16 PM  

wrenchboy: oldass31: And I don't think it's really necessary to overhaul the national power grid for the sake of a EM track from San Antonio to Austin.

You are correct in this case. But if this monorail system works I am sure that it would be expanded in other states as well.


I agree. But I also believe that like all large projects, it'll take a very long time to plan, approve, and build up the more large scale operations. Utility companies make it their business to know what to expect of a large customer that is currently under construction. I'm willing to bet they will make the necessary investments and increase their capacity to meet that future demand.
 
2012-06-08 07:59:15 PM  
Why not just use a standard freight train? It's cheaper than a truck and the technology is already proven and well-known.
 
2012-06-08 08:04:07 PM  

Marcus Aurelius: Dancin_In_Anson: germ78: Still no high-speed rail for the plebians.

Find a way to do it in a profitable fashion and it will be done.

Profitable? We spend $368 billion a year on highway subsidies. That's hardly "profitable". It has to be subsidized, encouraged, and regulated by the government. That's their job.


Highway "subsidies" as you call them are paid for by the users in gasoline taxes, tolls, etc. If you can recover your high speed rail costs from the rail users, build all the high speed rail you like.
 
2012-06-08 08:09:03 PM  
This, at 250 miles, is a worthless idea. It involves changing modals two or three times for a short haul.

What I would like to see, around the Dallas / Ft Worth Metroplex, would be a high frequency rail based truck bypass. Pick up a hundred trucks, drivers and all, down where I-35 splits, then drop off same north of where I-35 rejoins. And do something similar east/west. This could get a few thousand trucks a day to skip the major metropolitan traffic system as they travel to distant cities.

And I'd like to remind truckers to go through Ft Worth if you're on I-35. Going through Dallas involves a dumbass exchange that didn't make sense when it was built in the 1950's.
 
2012-06-08 08:54:38 PM  

Wangiss: oldass31: Wangiss: oldass31: wrenchboy: Nice idea. But where will they get the electricity to power this? The nations power grid can barely handle the load as it is now.
And charging stations for electric vehicles? Can you say blackouts?

Perhaps local power stations using high-efficiency, diesel-powered generators supplemented by all the wind energy that Texas has been installing?

And I don't think it's really necessary to overhaul the national power grid for the sake of a EM track from San Antonio to Austin.

And what about electric vehicle charging? Most of it happens at night when the load is lowest.

And people call me pessimistic....

You farking idiots. Texas has its own power grid.

While you are correct, most of Texas has on it's own power grid, that doesn't really address the actual point he was making.

The point he was making about the national power grid?


Sigh. The local power grid would have to be upgraded to accommodate testing of the small-scale prototype regardless of whether or not the local strain resided in an isolated state-wide power grid like Texas or within the national power grid.

If the idea is a failure, it doesn't matter if Texas has its own power grid. If the idea is a success, it still doesn't matter if Texas has its own power grid because the national power grid will have to be eventually upgraded. The load requirements in the long term would belong to that of a much larger, obviously nationwide rail system.
 
2012-06-08 11:48:00 PM  
Does it use Dorsai technology?

//Can't believe I'm the first to notice this--check TFAs author's name.
 
2012-06-08 11:55:44 PM  

CmndrFish: 1. Even modern rail freight is extremely slow, this is much faster.

2. If you take a look at the concept drawing for it in TFA, you'll see that they can more or less load a cargo container or trailer onto a cart and ship it off. electric lines allow for a lot more flexibility because you don't have to store the fuel source with the engine. So, instead of a giant train that take hours if not days to load and unload, thus making it impractical for many goods, you can efficiently make more flexible smaller trains.

3. Many countries have a mix of diesel and electric rail infrastructure. It's not unprecedented.


Rail in the US may not be as fast as by road but it isn't exactly slow. There are 'express' freight trains running between major destinations and select cargo can be the last on and first off. The cost savings of rail combined with whatever Green impact it has makes rail competitive to truck unless it is very urgent.

The picture shows basically an elevated track over a highway, great idea until something goes wrong and dumps a container onto the highway. Rather than going super high tech why not just do the same concept but with electric trains either with overhead lines or powered rails? The single car theory could still work.

I'd also be worried about the time to load/offload cargo. 250 miles is only 5 hours on the road (50mph avg, consider traffic), go to a rail head or port and a driver may spend an hour to pick up a load, that doesn't include the time to pick the load onto and off the train. The time savings would be minimal if any, then account for having to get a driver to move the load to one end, move the load by this thing, and then a 2nd driver to move it the rest of the way. 3 times the overhead in the office.

This is something that really needs scale to take and function. Having the origin being at a major port then you could offload containers directly onto this and move them inland rapidly, and the reverse. Even then you have to question why if this was feasible and profitable then why the major rails wouldn't try to do something similar.
 
2012-06-09 02:43:19 AM  

germ78: Dancin_In_Anson: germ78: Still no high-speed rail for the plebians.

Find a way to do it in a profitable fashion and it will be done.

As much of a supporter of HSR as I am, I have in recent years come to the conclusion that we first need to develop in a manner that allows for population densities in urbanized areas that allow for mass-transit and HSR type projects to be able to turn a profit, or at the very least not become money pits. But considering this country's love affair with automobiles and suburbs without any tangible centerpoints, I have my doubts that it will ever get done.

/until then, enjoy bending over and biting the pillow for arabian oil sheiks and chinese battery makers, cause they ain't gonna use lube
//it cuts into their profits, see


it will never get done, but not for your reasons IMO. while they are a valid concern, they biggest thing is politics.

look at california. they have been trying (supposedly) to put in a HSr (passenger) from san diego to LA (on mobile or would cite, if wrong plz correct) to LA and eventually up to san fran. soon as word gets around a survey team might of been in an area, the NIMBY crowd shows up and files law suits at every step with the goal of tying it up[ in court long enough for some permit or required study to expire.

then, IF you get past NIMBY, if you want right of way access, every community wants a stop, or they will say no through my town, if you put it there, it creates a barrier to growth etc etc.

You can have HSR, but how fast it gonna be if in a 500 miles trip you got 20 stops? HSR needs to be short regional. major hub to major hub. Oh, and for it to work as HSR, you have to deidcate it to passengers. force it to share with freight and all your speed is kaput.
 
2012-06-09 07:42:03 AM  

DORMAMU: You can have HSR, but how fast it gonna be if in a 500 miles trip you got 20 stops?


Faster than driving drunk, which is how I'd be riding on that train because it's how Japan's Shinkansen roll.

Planes are much faster, and sometimes even a little cheaper, but pound for pound it's a hell of a lot easier to take a train than anything else. You just roll up, no X Ray, no extra travel to an airport. And they can serve snacks and stuff on the train. It's awesome. 20 stops? Whatever. It would still only take about 6 hours to go 500 miles. Cross country high speed express with few stops would be cool, too. But we'd need to make a string of nuclear power plants along the route for that to happen.
 
2012-06-09 08:34:10 AM  
So let me get this straight, it haul freight. You know heavy shiat that ways tons. And we're building overhead rails to put it on....

Dumb ass idea, there is a reason the rail bridge is normally the bottom of the two bridges on a double decker. It would be cheaper to just expand the road and put in a fence off lane on either side. Stick automated trucks on that.
 
2012-06-09 01:29:32 PM  

flaminio: Unions will never allow something as useful as this.


Oh, bullshiat. To name an example off the top of my head, one of the more historically militant unions, the ILWU, has allowed most longshoreman's jobs to be automated out of existence.
 
2012-06-09 01:43:26 PM  
Wow, can't believe I'm in before the Amero.
 
2012-06-09 04:15:59 PM  

wrenchboy: Nice idea. But where will they get the electricity to power this? The nations power grid can barely handle the load as it is now.


Wrong, especially for Texas, which has a very robust grid.
 
2012-06-09 04:20:06 PM  

oldass31: wrenchboy: Nice idea. But where will they get the electricity to power this? The nations power grid can barely handle the load as it is now.
And charging stations for electric vehicles? Can you say blackouts?

Perhaps local power stations using high-efficiency, diesel-powered generators supplemented by all the wind energy that Texas has been installing?


Why the fark would you want to make electricity burning a fuel that it is less efficient, far more expensive and more polluting, when we have more natural gas than we know what to do with..
 
2012-06-09 10:09:43 PM  

Marcus Aurelius: Guelph35: If they had climate-controlled containers, I think it would be really useful if you could load yourself in your car into one, sleep while you ride overnight, then wake up at your destination city with your car.

They'd also need on and off ramps. The car train idea was already tried on the east coast, but the connections were always worse than flying and the trip cost almost as much as airfare.


It doesn't have to be that way however. The Euro Tunnel train does exactly this. The trouble there is in the US is that freight rail takes precedence over passenger rail and will always severely limit how fast it takes to get anywhere by rail in the country. Until they add more track that can allow for real high speed train travel for commuters and travelers, it is always going to suffer and end up only being used to move large amounts of cargo freight such as ore.
 
2012-06-10 11:57:09 AM  
I just got done delivering an expedite load in a straight truck from Los Indios to Kansas City. This won't take all the trucks off the road, but there are some interesting points to make.

First of all, they are WAY over capacity on truck stops down there, at least in the Laredo area. Plus, if you look at the truck stops off of Exit 13, the Flying J and the Pilot, they are HORRIBLE to get into and out of. A freight train stopped on the tracks to do its thing and blocked off access to both truck stops from that particular exit. Trucks were gridlocked for quite a while after the crossing was cleared.

Second, the Federal Motor Safety Commission which regulates the trucking industry is thinking about a proposed maximum BMI of 36 for truckers. Right now that would take away the medical card for at least a third of truckers. It would exacerbate the situation.

Third, there is little reason to expect that the unions would step into this matter at all. Union shops are actually fairly rare, most of the truckers I've talked to are owner ops, while union drivers are company. Companies like JB Hunt have embraced intermodal as the trend of the future. A lot of drivers I have talked to with far more experience expect that the share of over the road driving will continue to drop as more freight goes intermodal. And frankly more regional and line haul makes sense because young people today will NOT accept the status quo of OTR lifestyle. This is not something that will threaten the unionized companies which tend to not be OTR anyway. Union work does not pay cents per mile like OTR does. They also don't have to put up with the crap the rest of us deal with (they have their own crap, however).

Fourth, the trucking industry is one of the very few that have hardly been touched by innovation in the last 30 years. It NEEDS something truly disruptive to force out the institutions that have upheld the "lifestyle" for the last 30 years. There are no real excuses for much of the crap that goes on, both from individual drivers and from companies. Most of the truckers are pretty old like in all the skilled trades.

Fifth, the pool of potential drivers continues to shrink. Along with the BMI issue, there is a focus on zero tolerance for anything negative on one's record from the insurance companies. And there is a new, additional tracking system being used to vet drivers.

Sixth, there is a push from certain organizations to limit drivers to as little as 40 hours a week of driving. Forget the fact that if I'm away from home over the road I want to work as much as possible or it isn't worth my time to be out here. If I am out here, I am on the clock 24/7 anyway, I just can't drive beyond 70 hours a week. The rest of the time is dead time doing stuff that would be much easier to do at home. Restrict this to 60 or 40 hours and you will double the number of trucks you need to move stuff OTR.

Seventh, you will never be able to mix automated vehicles with people-driven vehicles on the same roadway so this is complete separate from the issue of robotic trucks. Also, you will always need humans to babysit a tanker or hazmat load to take charge when an oopsie happens. If it's built by humans it will fall apart sooner or later and rarely will it be convenient. Something breaks, spill happens, and you NEED someone on-scene to help alert others and secure the area. Truck drivers perform this duty and nobody is going to feel comfortable putting in the hands of electronics.

This is something that will help address some of the issues facing both truckers and the general public and put pressure for real change in the industry. I'm working toward establishing my own logistics company to push a new paradigm that appeals to younger people, and I welcome innovation like this because it is sorely needed. There are too many trucks out there now clogging things up and it is more likely to get worse in the short term than to get better because of proposed regulations being pushed by certain groups.
 
2012-06-10 06:00:59 PM  

They could store more freight if they compressed it:

lh3.googleusercontent.com
pops much bigger
 
2012-06-10 09:18:22 PM  
A company like FedEx or UPS should seriously invest in this. Design a national freight rail infrastructure system which runs like an indoor sort facility. Loads come in from major ports and rail centers which eliminates the need for Mexican drivers and semi trucks all over our roads tearing up the highways.

The roofs of cars or containers are fitted with RFID transmitters which trigger track switches whenever the load is reaching a turn off point. When a load gets to a hub destination, it gets routed to a staging area for a trucker, who alerted to the position of the container by the RFID stamp can pick up the load and make the local delivery to Wal-mart, Foot locker, etc

An automatic gate could be placed at the sort facility where the driver enters a code for the load, similar to a VPN fob ensuring that nobody steals or takes the wrong load.

Sure, it would mean less trucking jobs but it would be a private sector solution to deteriorating highways and lost productivity due to congestion. Loads could travel 60mph 24/7 without rest and portions of desert track could be powered by solar.
 
2012-06-11 06:16:53 AM  
It would have to be damn inefficient if it were to use more energy per ton- mile than trucking.
 
2012-06-11 07:55:44 PM  
I could see something like this working well, and efficiently.

I just moved to California, the SF bay area. there are huge derricks to unload boats. If a portion of all the crap heading to say...walmart... could be loaded onto a rail and piped directly to the closest distribution center a container at a time, instead of waiting at a shipping yard for a day or two to be rail loaded, or removing that many trucks from the roads in the bay area to ship it out 100 miles to a distribution center.

if the obstructionists don't interfere with it, it could work rather well.
 
2012-06-11 09:10:57 PM  
In other news, Texas is about to have it's own giant rail gun.

Operated by Texans.

*shudder*
 
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