(TNS) — First envisioned by inventor and business magnate Elon Musk, Hyperloop is a technology that could speed passengers or cargo in specially designed capsules or "pods" through a steel tube maintained at a partial vacuum.
Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency Director Grace Gallucci, speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, said: "It's really exciting to be collaborating with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and [Illinois Department of Transportation] to make better, faster and more efficient transportation between Chicago and Cleveland a reality."
The NOACA board voted in December to authorize Gallucci to identify sources for up to $600,000 to pay for its share of the feasibility analysis.
Gallucci said Wednesday she's "still working with other local partners to share that cost." Some $100,000 of NOACA's contribution to the analysis would be in-kind, she said.
Based in Playa Vista, California, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, also known by the initials HTT, is exploring Hyperloop routes in competition with Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One, which recently picked a Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh link as one of 10 around the globe that it wants to explore.
Hyperloop One said Tuesday it would make a "major announcement" about its next steps in creating a route it calls "Midwest Connect," that would not include Cleveland.
An independent engineering firm will conduct the feasibility analysis on the Cleveland-Chicago route for NOACA starting as early as March, Gallucci said.
The agency, which plans and coordinates transportation spending in Northeast Ohio, will soon release a request for proposals to choose the engineering firm, she said.
The work could take six to 12 months, and will examine potential routes for a Hyperloop line along with the cost, ridership, and possible station locations, she said. Public rights-of-way along I-80, I-90 and the Amtrak rail line will be explored.
"One of the things we want to do is go to Cedar Point," Gallucci said.
She estimated that a Hyperloop trip from Cleveland to the lakeside amusement park in Sandusky, which attracted 3.6 million visitors in 2016, would take 7 to 10 minutes.
HTT said it has formed a regional consortium around the Cleveland-Chicago project that includes "a multitude of other prominent organizations."
Additional details will be announced at an event scheduled for Feb. 26 in Cleveland at the Great Lakes Science Center, the company said.
"Regulations are the ultimate barrier for Hyperloop implementation, and we are excited to build the first real public-private partnership to bring Hyperloop travel to the US," Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT, said in the company's announcement.
"With this agreement, we welcome innovative and industry-leading partners in both government and industry to our movement," the announcement quoted Ahlborn as saying.
The company said that it was drawn to Northeast Ohio and the industrial Great Lakes region because of its deep capacities in manufacturing.
"We came here because places like Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the manufacturing, the raw materials and the talented, hard working people in order to make it happen," Andrea La Mendola, HTT's chief global operations officer, said in the announcement.
"We can source everything from this area," he said. "This is a place where you make big things."
Founded in 2013, HTT is a global firm with more than 800 employees in 52 multidisciplinary teams, with 40 corporate and university partners, it said.
The firm has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE; Bratislava, Slovakia; Toulouse, France; and Barcelona, Spain. It has signed agreements in Slovakia, Abu Dhabi, the Czech Republic, France, Indonesia, Korea and the U.S., the announcement said.
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