City among fi­nal­ists for hy­per­loop

Would be con­nected to Colum­bus, Chicago

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front page - By Ed Blaz­ina

Of­fi­cials in Pitts­burgh, Colum­bus and Chicago have proved the need for bet­ter ground transportation be­tween the cities.

Now they have to de­ter­mine whether they can de­velop the co­op­er­a­tion among mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment agen­cies to meet that need through high-speed pods that use low-pres­sure tubes and mag­netic force to carry peo­ple and freight at 700 miles an hour. If it can be done — tech­ni­cally, po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally — it could take just 14 min­utes to go from Pitts­burgh to Colum­bus and 29 min­utes from the Steel City to Chicago.

A coali­tion of the cities known as Mid­west Con­nect was one of 10 projects around the world to be se­lected Thurs­day for con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment by Hy­per­loop One, a Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany de­vel­op­ing transportation tech­nol­ogy that’s sim­i­lar to the pneu­matic tubes banks use in drive-through win­dows. The com­pany re­ceived hun­dreds of pro­pos­als through a com­pe­ti­tion known as the Hy­per­loop One Chal­lenge.

“We’re pretty ex­cited. It’s been a good day for us,” said Wil­liam

ex­pected pro­duc­tion costs and fares. Any project that reaches con­struc­tion is ex­pected to be a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship.

“We re bullish on this route. It makes a lot of sense,” said Dan Katz, di­rec­tor of pub­lic pol­icy and North Amer­i­can projects for Hy­per­loop. “We have a good sense of what they want to do.

“I think what it comes down to is gov­ern­ment be­ing will­ing to be in­no­va­tive. This par­tic­u­lar route goes through four states, so it will re­quire an ex­tra amount of co­op­er­a­tion and a lot of will­ing­ness to work to­gether.”

James Hassinger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Com­mis­sion, said the re­gion has demon­strated that will­ing­ness here.

“It’s a very pos­i­tive thing that Hy­per­loop looked at this route and hun­dreds of other routes and said there’s a higher like­li­hood it can be suc­cess­ful here than else­where,” he said. “This did orig­i­nate in Colum­bus, but they have been very much will­ing to part­ner with the groups on each end. They’ve been keep­ing us in­volved.”

One project, a 360-mile route that would link Den­ver with Pue­blo and Vail, Colo., and Cheyenne, Wyo., will move straight to a fea­si­bil­ity study in which the Colorado De­part­ment of Transportation will work with en­gi­neer­ing firm AE­COM to re­fine its Hy­per­loop pro­posal. Mr. Katz said that’s only be­cause that re­gion al­ready has the po­lit­i­cal coali­tion in place to pro­ceed.

The other projects cho­sen to move ahead are two in the U.S. — Texas (640 miles link­ing Dal­las, Laredo and Hous­ton); and Florida (257 miles be­tween Mi­ami and Or­lando). The oth­ers are 330 miles be­tween Guadala­jara and Mex­ico City, Mex­ico; 400 miles be­tween Toronto and Mon­treal, Canada; two in the United King­dom, 414 miles be­tween Ed­in­burgh and Lon­don and 339 be­tween Glas­gow and Liver­pool; and two in In­dia, 685 miles be­tween Mum­bai and Chen­nai and 208 miles be­tween Ben­galuru and Chen­nai.

Hy­per­loop was founded in 2014 by Josh Giegel, Bro­gan BamBro­gan and Shervin Pi­she­var and em­ploys more than 200. The firm has re­ceived at least $141.1 mil­lion in in­vest­ment cap­i­tal, ac­cord­ing to Crunch­base, a data­base for self-re­ported fi­nan­cials in the pri­vate sec­tor.

Elon Musk brought the tech­nol­ogy back to the pub­lic eye a few years ago, but he is not di­rectly con­nected to the project. He does have ties with the co-founders of Hy­per­loop. One is a ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and an­other is for­mer lead en­gi­neer for Mr. Musk’s SpaceX com­pany, which is push­ing com­mer­cial space travel and co­or­di­nat­ing the univer­sity com­pe­ti­tion for hy­per­loop pods.

Over the past two years, the com­pany has been work­ing to re­fine its tech­nol­ogy to prove it works and make sure it is af­ford­able. Mr. Katz said a test in early Au­gust in which a pod reached 192 mph over 1,000 feet shows the tech­nol­ogy works.

Ohio plan­ners are con­vinced, Mr. Mur­dock said. The agency has sub­mit­ted sub­stan­tial staff time to the project, he said, but that is just part of its du­ties as a re­gional plan­ning agency.

“When we look at the tech­nol­ogy, the more we think this was the right de­ci­sion to go af­ter the chal­lenge, and when this goes for­ward, we want to be the first one,” he said.

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