Missouri could be the first state in America to get a Hyperloop.
Virgin Hyperloop One said it had identified a ‘viable route’ running along the I-70 corridor, the major highway traversing Missouri, that would connect Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis.
Virgin Hyperloop One, which already has a working demo track in Nevada, claims it will have the first passenger-bearing loop built by the mid-2020s – and the ‘heartland hyperloop’ is now a front runner in the race.
The technology, developed by Elon Musk, is now being pursued by several firms.
It would transport people at roughly 700mph between distant locations through closed off vacuum tubes.
The initial cost estimate for building the I-70 hyperloop route would be $30 million to $40 million per mile of track, the report found – giving a total price tag of $7 billion to $10 billion.
Dozens of possible routes were proposed across the United States, including connections between Los Angeles and San Francisco; New York City and Washington, D.C.; Denver and Houston.
Further feasibility studies will likely be released within the next year for states like Colorado, Ohio and Texas, said a Hyperloop One employee, but Missouri has the distinction of the first.
The firm says the report is a major step forward for the transport technology invented by Elon Musk.
It examined the social impact, station locations, regulatory issues, route alignments and rights-of-way associated with the route.
‘A feasibility study of this depth represents the first phase of actualization of a full-scale commercial hyperloop system, both for passengers and cargo in the United States,’ said Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd.
‘We are especially proud that Missouri, with its iconic status in the history of U.S. transportation as the birthplace of the highway system, could be the keystone of a nation-wide network.
‘The resulting socio-economic benefits will have enormous regional and national impact.’
The study found Travel time between Kansas City and St. Louis could be as little as 28 minutes, compared to 3 ½ hours today, and travel time for trips from either Kansas City or St. Louis to Columbia could be 15 minutes, compared to nearly 2 hours
The cost to take a hyperloop from St. Louis to Kansas City could be lower than the cost to drive (based on gas alone), while still cutting down the time by three hours, it concluded.
The independent report, authored by global infrastructure solutions company Black & Veatch, analyzes a proposed route through the I-70 corridor, the major highway traversing Missouri, and verifies the favorable safety and sustainability opportunities this new mode of transportation offers.
‘Black & Veatch worked collaboratively with stakeholders across the region to examine the technology, constructability and the economics associated with designing and building a Missouri Hyperloop,’ said Steve Edwards, Chairman and CEO of Black & Veatch.
‘We found this project is a case of solid engineering meeting up with Virgin Hyperloop One’s innovative vision to create a network transforming the very concept of community.’
Two other states are currently studying hyperloop through in-depth feasibility studies—Ohio and Colorado.
In addition, Ohio is also participating in the first U.S. Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) of a hyperloop system and Texas has announced its intent to start the process.
However, experts have warned the technology is likely to appear elsewhere in the world first.
“I think the U.S. will be one of the last places where you’ll see this,” said Rick Geddes, director of the Cornell Infrastructure Policy program, told CNBC.
The biggest obstacles facing hyperloop aren’t the technical ones, he said, but instead policy ones.