Last week, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) had us on the edge of our seats when they said a “major” announcement regarding a Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh Hyperloop was on the way. Well folks, here it is…
MORPC is launching a $2.5 million program in hopes of convincing Virgin Hyperloop One to build the aforementioned route—the Midwest Connect. The program will include a feasibility study (nine month duration) which will look at the potential to add stops along the way including Marysville and Lima in Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. These stops could make transportation of crops to other cities, states, and countries faster and easier.
There will also be another study (12 month duration) which will look at the environmental impact of the Midwest Connect and other similar routes for Hyperloop and/or traditional passenger rail.
“As the winner of the U.S. Government’s Smart City Challenge, Columbus and Central Ohio is on the cutting edge of transportation technology,” said Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd. “We are very excited about the prospect of a Midwest Hyperloop from Pittsburgh all the way to Chicago. These actions by MORPC break new ground because they are integrating Hyperloop technology into a larger Environmental Impact Study — the first time that has happened anywhere in the world.”
The Midwest Connect was chosen as a top 10 finalist for a Hyperloop but so far, Hyperloop One hasn’t shelled out any money for it. The $2.5 million MORPC program will be funded by the city of Columbus ($250,000), Ohio and Indiana rail partners including MORPC, Union County, and the cities of Marysville and Lima ($500,000). MORPC is expecting Hyperloop One to jump on the funding bandwagon along with other private investors.
MORPC Executive Director William Murdock told The Dispatch these studies should put the Midwest Connect route ahead of other finalist US routes (Miami to Orlando in Florida; Dallas-Laredo-Houston in Texas; and Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo in Wyoming and Colorado). Winning the Smart Cities Challenge and $50 million prize to create a smart-transportation system also gives us a leg up on the competition.
“This is another step forward for our community, as we work together to become the model for connected cities of the future,” states Alex Fischer, The Columbus Partnership President and CEO. “We’re pursuing the most comprehensive study for any corridor – and the only interstate corridor at that – and we’re doing it the Columbus Way, bringing together the private, public and non-profit sectors to transform our community and its prosperity.”
“Columbus is recognized as a leader in forward-thinking alternative methods for mobility,” said Columbus Chief Innovation Officer Michael Stevens. “Exploring Hyperloop technology makes sense because we have the thought leadership, a history of successful public-private partnerships and residents who embrace cutting-edge ideas.”