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Airport 2050 - Part 5: Land Grants & IT4

Meeting Details:

Dinner at Nitty Gritty (223N Francis) at 6:30p, March 7th


There will be no Faster Badger Next Week (3/14) due to Spring Break



  • Recap of Blue Skies Submission

  • Plan for Engineering Expo


Central Japan Railways Internship:

Will be virtual this summer, with plans to be in person in 2023.

Last year the internship was just with UW-Madison students but was so successful that this years internship will include interns from Texas A&M, and University of Maryland.

To find out more:


Faster Headlines

Wheels on Steel:

The Mercury News

Railway Age

Tampa Bay Times

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Wendover Productions

In the Tube:


Up in the Air:



Airport 2050:

The Integrated Terminal 4 at O'Hare

For the NASA Blue Skies Competition the team put together a concept design for a terminal that seamlessly connects air and rail. The important difference from today's terminals is the train is past security rather than on the landside (how that security would work is a different story. This is done through having a completely separate rail infrastructure that allows clearing of security while enroute on the train.


Building a Railroad or a University

How to build a University….or a Railroad

Its called Land Grants.

In the 19th Century, as America expanded westward Congress faced the question of how to both build cities and the transportation infrastructure to support the development.

With the railroads, it was realized that once transportation infrastructure was built the value of the land would go up. While the US government and private industry did not have money, what they did have was real estate. So the US government would divide the land next to a proposed rail line into squares out from the proposed rail line. The railroads would be given a deed to half of those squares while the federal government retained ownership of the other pieces. This allowed the railroads to issue bonds to pay for building the railroad, and for the railroads to sell the land once it appreciated. The federal government would then give the land to other institutions or sell the land as well.

Of course, this formula didn’t just stop at railroads, but was extended to universities and other institutions. After all it was believed that a university would be the core of economic development in a new city. So East Lansing (UM), College Station (Texas A&M), or Columbus (Ohio State) and many other cities across the US started land grant universities. So the while the federal government was issuing land grants for the transcontinental railroad, the federal government also provided the law for states to create nearly all of today's major universities; including the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Then just like the railroads the university was able to grow by issuing bonds backed by the land issued to them or just sell the land.

What an irony considering today’s environment where State governments actively work against acquiring land to build high speed infrastructure, as is currently happening with Texas Central Railways and the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas State Attorney General is making the case that TCRR is not a railroad because it does not operate trains, and therefore does not have eminent domain rights. Imagine if that was the case in the 19th Century America. Not only would we not have the transcontinental railroad, but Saturday would be very boring without any College football from all those Land Grant Universities.

(Maps is via Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


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