Since 2017 an investigative panel in the state of Missouri has been studying the feasibility of installing a 250 mile stretch of Hyperloop along the I-70 corridor between St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City. The study found that the Hyperloop could save the state up to $500 million annually in increased productivity thanks to reduced travel times, reduced fuel use, and fewer road accidents on I-70. That massive project cleared its first hurdle in the state house of representatives on Thursday.
The bill passing the house clarified that Missouri would indeed allow state transportation grants to apply toward “tube transport” devices. In this case “tube transport” refers to a vacuum mag-lev shuttle that can theoretically travel at up to 640 miles per hour. The state is apparently aiming to partially fund the proposed project if it does come to fruition, leaning on private equity to fund the remainder.
The intent for this project is to reduce the travel time from St. Louis to Kansas City in 30 minutes, a trip that currently takes around 4 hours by car. The cost to construct such a system is estimated to cost around $30 million per mile, which is comparable to what China claims it is currently spending per mile of non-elevated non-hyperloop traditional high-speed rail.
This news comes at a pivotal time in the relationship between Virgin Hyperloop One and the state of Missouri, as Missouri is currently in the second round of states pitching Hyperloop on adding a new 15-mile test track to their state. Members of the Missouri committee believe that securing the test facility in their state is crucial to the state’s chance of being the first to implement a full-blown Hyperloop cross-state travel system.
Reports indicate that the proposed test track could cost between $300 million and $500 million ton construct. Add in another $7.5 billion or so for the final I-70 project (at low estimate) and you’ve got about eight bil in expenditure for the full project. According to the panel’s study, a Hyperloop could create as many as 17,200 jobs and spur close to $3.7 billion in annual economic activity.
Of course, projects like this always cost more than projected, take longer than projected, and don’t create nearly as many jobs as projected. Hopefully this time the numbers stick, though.