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Feasibility study announced for futuristic Missouri hyperloop tube-travel system

Feasibility study announced for futuristic Missouri hyperloop tube-travel system

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Black and Veatch, a Kansas City-area engineering company, will lead a study of the feasibility of a futuristic “hyperloop” tube-travel system aimed at moving passengers and cargo across Missouri in less than half an hour.

The study of the St. Louis-to-Kansas City route, which will take six to nine months, was announced Tuesday by the Missouri Hyperloop Coalition. The coalition is a statewide public-private alliance that formed in October.

Black and Veatch is donating staff time and services valued at $400,000. It will work with Virgin Hyperloop One, which will contribute an unspecified amount of time and services to the study. That company, based in California, last fall added Missouri to its list of top candidates for its initial projects.

“It’s going to look at routing, infrastructure requirements, the environmental impact, locations and connections,” Drew Thompson, a Black and Veatch executive, said of the feasibility review.

The study also will analyze the potential economic impact and develop a construction cost estimate and recommendations on how to pay for it.

“The fact that the broader business community has embraced this opportunity sets Missouri apart,” said Andrew Smith, a vice president with the St. Louis Regional Chamber, an alliance partner.

The hyperloop system would use electric propulsion to move travelers in pods through a low-pressure tube. Magnetic levitation is used to lift the pods above the track, gliding at airline speeds because of low aerodynamic drag.

The Missouri Department of Transportation first proposed the Missouri route along Interstate 70 three years ago. MoDOT and the regional chamber formed the alliance with the KC Tech Council, the University of Missouri system and the Columbia-based Missouri Innovative Center.

An alliance spokeswoman said UM will be the contracting entity for the study but that no tax money will be spent on it.

Backers haven’t disclosed a potential price tag for building the Missouri system but officials in Colorado say their proposed 360-mile system would cost about $24 billion.

Ryan Kelly, a Virgin Hyperloop One official, did note that the proposed Missouri route is relatively flat compared with mountainous Colorado.

Last month, Hyperloop One added Virgin to its name as British billionaire Richard Branson became its chairman. Branson, whose Virgin Group runs various enterprises, invested in the hyperloop firm and joined its board in October.

Hyperloop One in September had unveiled its list of 10 prime candidates for eventual construction, including four in the United States.

Company officials said Missouri fell just short but that creation of the new statewide coalition resulted in the state being added to the list of contenders. Only Missouri and Colorado have begun feasibility studies, they said.

Others on the company’s list would link Chicago to Pittsburgh, Miami to Orlando and Dallas to Houston. The company also is looking at proposed routes in Canada, Mexico, Britain and India.

A separate hyperloop effort begun by billionaire inventor Elon Musk has been eyeing an underground hyperloop linking New York City to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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