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OH Planners Eye Hyperloop to Pittsburgh

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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After receiving a $100,000 donation from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is now looking to connect Pittsburgh to its proposed Great Lakes Hyperloop System.

The project—which is being pursued by NOACA and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies—plans to connect Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago.

About the Project

More than three years ago, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) was reportedly working with various Ohio-based transit firms, lobbyists and transportation businesses to decide on a best practice location for the installation of a hyperloop track. Eventually, the team advised that NOACA join a public-private partnership with HTT for the transportation project.

By February 2018, HTT entered an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation and NOACA to study the possibility of a Hyperloop system between Chicago and Cleveland.

The high-speed rail agreement was a reported first for the nation, involving parties from multiple states. The technology estimated that the magnetically levitated passenger capsules, which would be propelled inside low-pressure tubes, could complete the trip in just 28 minutes.

“We came here because places like Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the manufacturing, the raw materials and the talented, hard-working people in order to make it happen," said Andrea La Mendola, HTT’s chief global operations officer. "We can source everything from this area. This is a place where you make big things."

In September, Pittsburgh was added to the route after receiving a $100,000 donation from the Richard King Mellon Foundation—estimating that a one-way trip from Pittsburgh to Chicago would take just under an hour and cost about $93.

In the steps following the city’s addition, the project’s planning agency, Pittsburgh’s strategic advisory committee, Pittsburgh area officials and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission plan to host private meetings regarding the Great Lakes Hyperloop System.

Following the private meetings, a feasibility study is slated to be released in December. Community meetings are also to be conducted in January for public comment.

“Once the study is completed, NOACA and partners will pursue an environmental impact statement followed by the construction of the project,” said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci. “This project is years—not decades—away from becoming a reality.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the study will cost $1.3 million and will be split between NOACA and HTT.

“Hyperloop is an innovative technology that has the potential to significantly reduce travel times and open up the Pittsburgh region to the rest of the Midwest, connecting us all in a network of technology, resources, people and jobs,” said Jim Hassinger, SPC’s Executive Director.

“The technological and research advantages in our region are great resources for advancing this new mode of transportation.”

Hyperloop History and Other Projects

The Hyperloop concept originated with inventor Elon Musk, who then made the basic plan “open source,” a practice borrowed from the software world, in which a plan or set of code is opened up to the public for further development. That opened the door to HTT and its prime competitor, Hyperloop One (now known as Virgin Hyperloop One), to begin work on bringing the idea to life.

In 2017, HTT began construction on the world’s first full-scale Passenger Hyperloop Capsule. The official reveal took place in early 2018 at HTT’s research and development center in Toulouse, France.

Similar to the Great Lakes Hyperloop System, in the summer of 2018, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission announced a partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One, to study the options of building a hyperloop connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago.

Since the reveal and feasibility study agreement with NOACA and the Illinois DOT, however, HTT has also reported progress on projects in two countries: a track set to be built in Abu Dhabi, and the company’s third test track, under construction in France.

According to CNBC, the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) Abu Dhabi Hyperloop line will be developed close on the border of the Abu Dhabi and Dubai emirates, and will be completed in several phases.

The France-based track will also be built in phases and will include a closed 320-meter (1,079-foot) system and a 1-kilometer-long system, elevated to 5.8 meters in height by pylons. The track was slated for completion by 2019.

In March, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission approved a $2 million contract with Los Angeles-based engineering and construction firm AECOM for a hyperloop study. The study looked at the possibility of constructing a hyperloop that would connect Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, with a leg to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

By July, the government of Maharashtra, located in India, announced that the development of a hyperloop is a public infrastructure project, and has named Virgin Hyperloop One has one of the original project proponents.

Virgin, working in collaboration with global ports owner DP World, will spearhead the project. Both Mumbai and Pune, which are roughly 100 miles apart and would be connected by the project, are located in western India.

Most recently, last month, Beijing-based architecture firm MAD Architects announced a collaboration project with HTT for a new elevated transport system design. The two previously collaborated for the 2020 Expo in Dubai. In taking the next steps, the team plans to integrate its full-scale passenger capsule for human trials in 2020.


Tagged categories: Contractors; Contracts; Department of Transportation (DOT); Hyperloop; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail; Railcars; Roads/Highways; Transportation; Upcoming projects

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