Missouri continues pushing Hyperloop effort ahead of deadline

St. Louis and Kansas City are vying to build the first test track

Michael Calhoun
January 21, 2020 - 9:33 am

JEFFERSON CITY (KMOX) -- Missouri legislators are considering whether to allow so-called "tube transport" to be eligible for the same funding mechanisms as roads or rail.

After that, the state's top two metro areas will vie to build the initial large-scale Hyperloop test track.

Related: Missouri could be 1st to get Hyperloop travel tube from St. Louis to Kansas City

Hyperloop would theoretically send passengers in a pod through a vacuum tube at hundreds of miles an hour, cutting travel between St. Louis and Kansas City down to about a half-hour.

This is the futuristic transportation technology heralded by entrepreneur Elon Musk. Virgin Hyperloop One is the company that's spearheading which areas will get to build it first.

Andrew Smith, Vice Chairman of the state's Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop, estimates the test track could cost about $300 million to construct.

"The two communities that are in Missouri and are competing for this -- St. Louis and Kansas City -- have got to demonstrate they're the right places to build the track," Smith said. "That involves access to a right of way, it involves private funding, strategic partnerships you can bring to bear, and ultimately it involves the attractiveness of the location."

Smith touts Hyperloop as an opportunity to connect St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City into a single metropolitan area.

Related: Missouri is Hyperloop front runner says St. Louis Regional Chamber VP

Missouri is one of ten regions to move on to phase two of the process with Virgin Hyperloop One.

"I don't think it's foregone that Missouri is going to win this by any means," Smith said.

"Texas is a state you can never count out because they've got gobs of money and gobs of people. In North Carolina, they have a great track record of investing in research and development and turning that into jobs. They pioneered that with the Research Triangle."

Details on who pays for it -- and if MoDOT will coordinate -- are still unresolved.

"It's just way too early for us to be talking about state funding or which state agency is going to be the governing authority on a project like this," Smith said. "We're still working through those details."

Legislators are considering adding "tube" to the modes of transportation eligible for public-private partnerships. Smith believes private sector investment would form the bulk of funding.

The next milestone is Virgin Hyperloop One's deadline for site applications, which is February 22. But Smith says the company could move faster or slower than that timeline if they receive a proposal they really like.

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