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Highways Key to Developing Hyperloop

Monday, October 14, 2019

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According to officials from electro-magnetic transportation company Virgin Hyperloop One, highway rights-of-way could be the key to establishing the developing transportation system across various regions of the nation.

Information supporting the idea was briefed at the 2019 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials annual meeting, which took place Oct. 5-9 in St. Louis.

The Proposal

During the briefing at AASHTO’s annual meeting, Virgin Hyperloop and the Missouri Hyperloop Coalition teamed up to explain the need for changes in current rules and laws associated with highways on the state and federal level in order to gain potential access to highway right-of-ways.

“You guys [state departments of transportation] are arguably our critical audience and we need to understand the regulatory and financing concerns from the state DOT perspective,” said Andrew Smith, founder of the Missouri Hyperloop Coalition. “The highway system was an amazingly bold vision [and] the majority of highway system has enough room for this system.”

According to Smith, although the hyperloop is “significantly less expensive than high-speed rail,” the high cost of the project influenced by the United States’ vast differences in environment and landscape, the majority of taxpayers aren’t willing to pay for the construction to establish a regional or national hyperloop network.

“So it comes down to public-private partnerships—while there will be some level of state, federal, local government investment, the vast amount of the money [to build the Hyperloop] must come from private sector,” Smith emphasized. “And the one risk the private sector not willing to undertake is public sector uncertainty—that is a gray area we cannot operate in.”

Already Virgin Hyperloop is reported to have conducted over 400 tests of the XP-1 prototype located at a test facility in Las Vegas. However, although the company also claims that it is readying a national request for proposals for all 50 states, roughly $40 billion worth of infrastructure investments for the hyperloop are currently in Middle East sovereign funds.

In addition to just moving people and products faster than ever before—roughly 670 mph in the hyperloop pods—the system would also provide efficient land and energy use as well, running using 100% electricity with no emissions.

“We define distance in today’s world by how long it takes to travel between two cities—a distance defined by driving time,” Diana Zhou, director of project strategy for Virgin Hyperloop One added. “Why should that still be the case? Hyperloop would change that paradigm; change the discussion about where work and live. It would open up more options for people, communities, and businesses.”

In conclusion, Smith pointed out that in a 2018 feasibility study conducted by the Missouri Hyperloop Coalition, that by turning cities into “metro stops” neighboring cities would no longer have to compete for attractive jobs and company locations. Instead, leading economic development regions could be developed, competing against large cities like Boston, Denver and others.


Tagged categories: Business matters; Department of Transportation (DOT); NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail; Railcars; Roads/Highways; Transportation

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