(TNS) — The science fiction-like vision of a transportation system that could move passengers from Greeley to Denver in 6 minutes and other points across the Front Range at speeds of nearly 700 mph came down to a question last September.
"How feasible is this project?" asked Dan Katz, Virgin Hyperloop One's director of public policy and North American Projects.
For Colorado, that quickly resulted in a feasibility study with the Colorado Department of Transportation and engineering firm AECOM. Eight months later, it's at its halfway point, the group announced this week. And for Katz, the study is pushing Colorado ahead of a group of 10 worldwide finalists preparing to take part in the massive transportation project that would send passengers and freight traveling in pods via electric propulsion in low-pressure tubes.
Katz, who previously worked as the chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Transportation under former transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, was in Denver on Tuesday to talk about how the project is progressing and to share project leaders' vision of what a Hyperloop portal near Denver International Airport — the starting point of Colorado's transportation project — would look like. As part of his visit, he said the project's leaders are now in the process of working with communities to determine if the Hyperloop should go north toward Greeley or south toward Colorado Springs.
The larger Rocky Mountain Hyperloop project, expected to cost $24 billion to build, would stretch from Cheyenne to Pueblo and from Denver into the mountains.
As project officials seek feedback from communities, Katz said the company already is learning from the study. So far, he said, those lessons have been on two levels: economic and technological.
In terms of the economy, the team is working through what a completely new transportation system would mean for Colorado.
"How will having a brand new option for travel in Colorado transform the way people travel?" Katz asked.
On the technology side, Katz said the feasibility study has dug into the state's topography, learning about soil and other factors that would impact construction of the project.
"It always gets much more interesting when you zoom into the topography," Katz said. "We're learning a lot about the topography, soils, construction for a Hyperloop system."
For the state, Tuesday's announcement was just the latest development in a project that kicked off in May 2016 as a call to individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop proposals for the project. In Colorado, the project has been gaining even more momentum since September, when the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop was selected as one of 10 finalists from five countries. Greeley's stake in the project started with a 40-mile round trip from Greeley to DIA, but quickly evolved to the current route.
As the dream of a Hyperloop moves forward in Colorado, Katz said the state's quick work to develop a public-private partnership for the study helped push it ahead of other finalists. He said officials will know by the end of the year if Colorado is selected as a winner. The study could be complete by the late summer or early fall.
©2018 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.