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Firms Picked to Lead Hyperloop and High Speed Rail Studies

Brent Warren Brent Warren Firms Picked to Lead Hyperloop and High Speed Rail StudiesPhoto from Virgin Hyperloop One.
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Plans to study the feasibility of connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago by either high speed rail or Hyperloop are moving forward.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) announced in February a plan to study the two options, and has now picked two firms to lead the effort. AECOM and WSP USA will be the lead consultants, in charge of producing both a feasibility study and an environmental impact study.

Both AECOM and WSP USA are large engineering firms that work internationally and that also have local satellite offices in Columbus.

“MORPC and its public and private partners in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania are excited to take this important next step in moving innovative transportation technology forward in Central Ohio and across the Midwest,” said William Murdock, MORPC Executive Director, in a statement. “This is the first route in the world that incorporates Hyperloop technology into both a feasibility study and an environmental impact study.”

AECOM will lead the Hyperloop feasibility study, which will aim to provide some specifics – including an implementation strategy and an economic benefit analysis – for an idea that has only been proposed in the most general terms so far and that relies on an unproven technology.

The study, according to MORPC, will examine the route picked in 2017 by Virgin Hyperloop One as a finalist in the company’s Global Challenge, as well as a second, undisclosed route. Both routes will include, “at minimum,” the cities of Chicago, Fort Wayne, Lima, Marysville, Columbus and Pittsburgh. The goal is for the study to be completed by March of 2019.

WSP USA will lead the Tier One Environmental Impact Study of the corridor; a required step for any rail project, and a process that is already underway for the portion of the corridor that runs between Lima and Chicago. WSP USA will coordinate the work of the different groups and is expected to complete the study by July of 2019.

Two Columbus-based firms – Lawhon & Associates and Engage Public Affairs – will also assist with the effort.

MORPC said previously that the total anticipated cost of the two initiatives is $2.5 million. The City of Columbus has committed $250,000 in funding, while other entities – including MORPC, Indiana partners, and the cities of Marysville and Lima – have committed $500,000 to the effort.

Virgin Hyperloop One has not yet contributed any funds to the studies, but the statement released today said that “additional support is expected from other public and private partners.”

Additional Reading: Hyperloop: All Hype or the Real Deal?

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