Virgin Hyperloop says West Virginia has been chosen for its futuristic tube travel test track and certification center, but Missouri is not out of the picture. Company spokesman Ryan Kelly tells Missourinet West Virginia might not necessarily be where the first route is located.
“We still plan to continue work with some of the states that we’ve been talking to including Missouri, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and a couple more to really look at where the first projects could be once our technology is safety certified,” says Kelly. “If you think about how the interstate highway system came around when (President) Eisenhower decided to make that investment, even though it was based in Missouri, it was a national campaign. That’s where it started, but obviously not where it finished.”
St. Charles in eastern Missouri was the home of the first interstate highway project in the nation.
A Hyperloop is said to have the ability to lug passengers from Kansas City to St. Louis in about 30 minutes – a potential game changer for the way the state does business in the region. People could commute from one end of the state to the other, tying both economies together.
Kelly says the company’s top three criteria in its decision to award the projects to West Virginia had to do with land, political support and financial support. He says the company is not disclosing the incentives offered or any other financial information.
The Missouri Legislature passed and the governor signed into law this year a bill that keeps state road funds away from the project, keeps the project away from I-70’s right of way, and bans the use of eminent domain to build it. Did the new law derail plans of the test track and certification center coming to Missouri?
“I’ll counter that with Missouri was one of the first ones to actually legislate about Hyperloop in the United States as well,” says Kelly. “Speaker (Elijah) Haahr has been a huge proponent of what we were doing and have felt that support in Missouri. So, I wouldn’t point to that as a be all end all or something that we can point to that really tipped the scales, so to speak.”
Haahr, R-Springfield, formed a task force charged with creating a road map to commercialize a Hyperloop in Missouri. Lieutenant Gov. Mike Kehoe led the team.
“The vision that the state had for something like this is really commendable and exciting,” says Kelly. “We want to continue forward to talk to the state and continue to look at a path forward – for not only Missouri but for America as well.”
A study the panel compiled found that the technology could have up to $3.6 billion annually in economic impact and create up to 17,200 new jobs in Missouri. The group’s 176-page report also says the network could reduce I-70 vehicle crash injuries and fatalities up to 50%.
It estimates a full 250-mile Hyperloop track along Interstate-70 would cost about $7 to $10 billion and be mainly privately funded.
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