House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, says Missouri became the Gateway to the West about 100 years ago by building an interstate system. During a press conference today at the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Haahr says he wants Missouri to be the gateway to the world by building the first-ever Hyperloop system.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr (Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications)

He has announced the creation of a group of elected officials and business people to study whether a revolutionary high-speed tube transportation network called Hyperloop makes financial sense in Missouri and to come up with strategies that could accelerate construction of a proposed route. The special panel will also examine how to make Missouri the “global epicenter” for research and development of Hyperloop technology.

A proposed Hyperloop route is supposed to haul travelers in a tube from St. Louis to Kansas City in 28 minutes with a pit stop in Columbia. A typical road trip from Kansas City to St. Louis might take about four hours, if you don’t factor in stops along the way.

Vice chair Andrew Smith of the St. Louis Regional Chamber says a Hyperloop would unify the state and create a single economic development mega region that would make Missouri competitive with some of the top economic development mega regions in the union.

“When you look at St. Louis and Kansas City combined, you’re talking about an area that really has the same kind of potential as a Boston, Bay Area or Seattle,” says Smith.

Haahr says that the tube system has a much more “far-reaching promise” than a high-speed railroad network.

Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe (Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications)

“High-speed rail is about one-third as fast and costs more than the Hyperloop would,” he says.

Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, who is chairing the group, says Missouri has the ingenuity, technology and resources to figure out the steps to bring the futuristic travel system to the Show-Me State.

“We’re the state that funded the first Transatlantic flight with Charles Lindbergh. We’re the state that built the Eads bridge over the river when no one said it could be done. We’re the state to produce the engineers to help put man on the moon,” says Kehoe.

The Missouri Legislature has been bickering for years about ways to increase infrastructure funding to fix the state’s ailing roads and bridges. Why look at other transportation modes when this problem has not been resolved?

“It’s not like we’re standing here saying we’ve got a concrete proposal to start building Hyperloop next year. We’re looking at the feasibility of doing it long term,” says Haahr. “Second of all, obviously our Legislature this year has spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we’re going to work on I-70, how we’re going to work on roads and bridges around the state. We’re taking those. I think the important thing to remember here is in our opinion, looking 100 years down the road, funding our current infrastructure is important in the short term. Funding the next mode of transportation is important in the long term.”

Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, House Communications

One scenario that has been previously considered is having a private company operate the tube mode of transportation – taking a lot of the financial burden off the state. However, whether taxpayer funds or an attractive tax incentive package would be included is anyone’s guess. Haahr says the group will also look into funding avenues both federal and private to avoid running out of money before such a network is built.

Other members of group include Senators Caleb Rowden, Tony Luetkemeyer and Brian Williams, Representatives Travis Fitzwater and Derek Grier, Missouri Economic Development Director Rob Dixon, University of Missouri System President Mun Choi, and private sector leaders and subject matter experts from around the state.

Over the next several months, the panel will hold public meetings in St. Louis, Jefferson City, and Kansas City. It plans to have its recommendations ready in September.

Kansas City-based engineering firm Black and Veatch completed a study last year and said building a Hyperloop in Missouri is viable. Its study found that making a Hyperloop track along I-70 from St. Louis to Kansas City would cost about $10 billion. The firm estimates 16,000 to 62,000 people would use the Hyperloop daily.

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