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Hyperloop would boost Missouri economy, study says

A feasibility study on the proposed hyperloop between St. Louis and Kansas City found that each ride would be cheaper than the cost of gas.
Virgin Hyperloop One
A feasibility study on the proposed hyperloop between St. Louis and Kansas City found that each ride would be cheaper than the cost of gas.

The company behind a hyperloop transportation system between St. Louis and Kansas City is touting a new feasibility study.

The study, released on Wednesday, was done by the Kansas City-based engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch. It found the hyperloop would be an economic boon for the state, saving Missourians $410 million a year.

Virgin Hyperloop One, the first company in the world to build a hyperloop test system, has turned its attention to bringing high-speed travel between St. Louis and Kansas City. The technology uses a pod that transports passengers and cargo by electric propulsion through an aboveground vacuum tube, at speeds as high as 640 miles an hour.

“We are thrilled at the results of this study,” said CEO Rob Lloyd. “A feasibility study of this depth represents the first phase of actualization of a full-scale commercial hyperloop system, both for passengers and cargo in the United States.”

Lloyd said the hyperloop would bring big socio-economic benefits to Missouri.

Virgin Hyperloop One chose several other routes in the U.S. among its winners in September 2017, and included the St. Louis/Kansas City route among its finalists. It would likely be privately funded and operated, if the route becomes a reality.

The study found the hyperloop would reduce the number of accidents along the I-70 corridor. Virgin Hyperloop’s Head of Marketing and Communications, Ryan Kelly, said the reduction of accidents would put roughly $91 millions back in Missourians’ pockets per year and cut travel time by more than three hours between the state’s two biggest cities.

“We take the statistics of how many accidents are on the road right now. The people that we would take off the road and then look at the average of people that would have gotten into accidents if they weren’t using a hyperloop system,” he said. “And then how much money they would have to shell out to fix those repairs.”

Austin Walker, director of government affairs at the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said the hyperloop would be a game changer for Missourians, creating an economic development corridor from St. Louis to Kansas City.

“It takes me about a half hour to just to get to our outer suburbs in St. Louis. Well, if I can be in Kansas City in the same time what does that mean for employment and transportation and work enforcement?” Walker asked. “That means I could work in Kansas City possibly and live in St. Louis.”

A route from either of the state’s regional hubs to Columbia would also slice the two hour travel time to just 15 minutes.

Kelly said despite the speed, the system is safe.

“The number one safety concern with a train or a high speed rail is at grade crossings, because they have to be on the ground,” Kelly said. “We’re actually going to built on pylon above ground and within the tube. So not only do we avoid weather hazards, but we also avoid any kind of at grade issues there.”

No official construction or operation date has been announced, but Kelly said it could be anytime between 2021 and 2030.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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