Will Missourians support the controversial hyperloop linking the state’s two largest cities? That’s the hope of a blue ribbon panel charged with investigating the idea.
An announcement Monday afternoon by House Speaker Elijah Haahr and members of Missouri’s Special Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop revealed the state is serious about the technology.
The panel encouraged Missouri to make a bid to host a test track for the high-speed transportation system still under development in California.
The recommendation is the result of a six months-long study commissioned by state House Speaker Haahr to investigate the possibility of bringing the futuristic technology to the state.
Just the test track alone could cost between $300 million and $500 million, and the estimated cost to build a full Hyperloop system across Missouri ranges from $30 million to $40 million per mile. That’s about $7.3 billion to $10.4 billion total.
The technology involves a tube through which a train-like pod carries passengers on a track at speeds of more than 600 mph. Advocates of hyperloop want to connect Kansas City to St. Louis with the high-speed system, bypassing the state’s interstate system which voters failed to pass a gas tax to improve.
When complete, the system that could cut a roughly four-and-a-half-hour drive on I-70 to just a 30-minute commute.
Panel members said the first step is to get a 12- to 15-mile test track built, which would make the state a top contender for a full-blown track, The Kansas City Star reported.
“It’s an opportunity that’s directly in front of us,” said Ryan Weber, president and CEO of the KC Tech Council and a member of the panel. “We could be first. And being first with a project like this could have significant long-term economic benefit for the state.”
Haahr said Monday that he expects the state to submit multiple bids to place a test track in Kansas City, Columbia or St. Louis.
Andrew Smith, a panel leader, said Virgin Hyperloop One is expected to soon begin searching for a place to test out the futuristic transportation. He said support from government officials and months of research make Missouri a top contender.
“We’ve done the work,” Smith said.
Panel members in their report lauded the potential to connect skilled workers to jobs across the state and quickly transport products and other goods. According to the panel’s study, a Hyperloop could create as many as 17,200 jobs and spur close to $3.7 billion in economic activity.
But the technology is not cheap, and the report points out risks involved with becoming an early adopter. The panel also did not discuss how much it would cost to take the hyperloop between the two cities.
The project needs $50 million to $100 million for research and development alone in the next three years to continue.
Proponents say that private investment would be key to the project’s success.