Hyperloop project a step closer to reality


A proposal to connect Columbus to Pittsburgh and Chicago by high speed tube has been selected as one of 10 finalists for the Hyperloop One global challenge. The above-ground tube would run through Union County, though it would not have a local stop.
(Photo submiotted)
A plan to connect Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh via high-speed tube that could run through the county is one step closer to reality.
Earlier this week, Columbus was selected as one of 10 winners of Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge.
“Hyperloop is a new way to move people or freight extremely quickly, safely and on-demand,” according to the company.
Officials said the Hyperloop system works by removing most of the air inside a miles-long tube and accelerating a levitated vehicle through that tube. Hyperloop officials say the vehicle can “glide quietly at airline speeds for long distances.”
Thea Walsh, transportation systems and funding director for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), likened the technology to the tube system at a bank drive through. She said the technology would allow pods in the tube to carry people and cargo at “near airplane speeds, more than 700 miles per hour.”
The Global Challenge, kicked off in May 2016, was an open call to individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop comprehensive proposals for using Hyperloop One’s technology.
The proposal, Midwest Connect, was one of more than 2,600 registrations selected from more than 100 countries. In January, the Midwest Connect proposal was selected as one of 35 finalists.
Once selected, MORPC worked with local partners to enhance the proposal and develop support and partnerships. In April, a delegation from MORPC and the Columbus Partnership present its case to a panel of experts in transportation, technology, economics and innovation and to Hyperloop One team members.
While an exact path is not defined, the plan calls for the Hyperloop tube to be built on the same route as a proposed high-speed passenger rail system proposed for the area. Unlike the potential train system, the Hyperloop project does not include a stop in Marysville. According to the proposal, the tube system would connect Columbus to both Chicago, a ride of about 24 minutes, and Pittsburgh, within 20 minutes.
Other winning routes include routes to connect:
•U.S.— Dallas-Laredo-Houston (Texas)
•U.S. — Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo (Colorado)
•U.S. — Miami-Orlando (Florida)
• India — Bengaluru-Chennai
•India — Mumbai-Chennai
•U.K. — Edinburgh-London
•U.K.— Glasgow-Liverpool
•Mexico — Mexico City Guadalajara
•Canada —Toronto-Montreal
In its announcement of winning routes, Hyperloop One noted the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route was selected for its, “strong public/private stakeholder involvement across multiple states and its unique implementation of Hyperloop technologies to solve the lack of infrastructure in the region.”
Hyperloop officials said connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago would create, “a Midwest megaregion to rival the country’s coastal economic powerhouses.”
Officials noted there is currently no direct freight or passenger rail connection along the corridor.
“We are excited to work closely with Hyperloop One to explore this project’s development and impact on Central Ohio and the Midwest,” William Murdock, MORPC Executive Director, said in a release announcing the selection. “Our Midwest Connect proposal fulfills a need for faster surface transportation options in the Midwest and strengthens connections and economic opportunities between the growing, tech-savvy regions of Columbus and Pittsburgh with the global power of Chicago.”
Project officials said the next phase for teams will be a detailed feasibility study. MORPC said teams will meet with Hyperloop One to discuss next steps and project implementation “toward the end of the year.”
Selection of the Midwest Connect proposal by Hyperloop One does not provide funds for construction. As part of further planning for the corridor, potential costs and public private partnership financing strategies will be evaluated.
Officials said planning for the Hyperloop project and the high-speed passenger rail project could help each other.
“Hyperloop One is one of many transportation efforts happening in Central Ohio that make the area a smart region and exciting for disruptive technologies,” said Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership

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