(TNS) — Feasibility and environmental impact studies will be done on Virgin Hyperloop One's proposed route connecting Columbus, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
The federally required environmental impact study is to be finished by July 2019. Engineering firm WSP USA will collect data while reviewing existing conditions along the route, provide alternate routes and evaluate infrastructure. The study will give local officials an opportunity to win federal funding for the project.
The feasibility study, to be completed by March by AECOM — a design, construction and engineering company — will include route planning, and analyses of economic benefit and projected demand.
Virgin Hyperloop One, co-owned by billionaire Richard Branson, selected the Columbus-Pittsburgh-Chicago route as one of 10 potential routes from around the world as finalists for the project. The company has announced that a route in India will be the first.
The Hyperloop will move people or freight at hundreds of miles an hour through a vacuum tube. Speeds could top 600 mph. Magnets will lift and propel the car. Local officials visited the prototype being tested in Nevada in May. The "Midwest Connect" route would allow people in Columbus to travel to Chicago in about a half-hour.
Doing the environmental study now puts the area's route ahead of those being planned for Colorado and between St. Louis and Kansas City in Missouri, said Dan Katz, Virgin Hyperloop's director of North American projects.
"What's really critical for us, aside from the route itself, is the ability to work on a project in the Columbus area, which is becoming a transportation technology hub," Katz said, He referred to Columbus winning the Smart City challenge, which includes $50 million to develop a transportation system using "smart" technology.
The studies will cost a total of $700,000 and are being funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation, Union County, and the cities of Columbus, Marysville and Lima, said Thea Walsh, director of transportation systems and funding for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. Officials are looking for other funding sources. Earlier this year, the planning commission committed to spend $2.5 million on studies local leaders hope will boost the area's Hyperloop bid.
©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.