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Chicago to Columbus: Hyperloop and High Speed Rail Options to be Studied

Brent Warren Brent Warren Chicago to Columbus: Hyperloop and High Speed Rail Options to be StudiedA contingent of Columbus leaders recently visited the Virgin Hyperloop One facility. Photo via MORPC.
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The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) announced a plan today to study “rapid-speed” transportation options linking Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago.

That would include both high speed rail – which was first floated as an option in 2013 and for which some planning has already begun – and Hyperloop, the futuristic tube-based transport that has received a lot of attention locally, especially after Columbus was named one of ten finalists in a global selection process.

MORPC is calling the Hyperloop portion of the initiative a “feasibility study,” while the high-speed rail part will tackle the “initial components” of a Tier I Environmental Impact Study (EIS); a required step for any rail project, and a process that is already underway for the Chicago to Lima portion of the corridor.

Thea Walsh, Director of Transportation Systems & Funding at MORPC, said that the Hyperloop study and the EIS will be undertaken at the same time, with a goal of completing them both by the end of 2018.

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.

MORPC said in a statement that additional support is expected from “other private partners” as well as Virgin Hyperloop One, one of several companies working on developing the technology and the one that named Columbus a Global Challenge finalist last year.

“We are excited to partner with leading public and private organizations on the future of rapid-speed transportation here in Central Ohio,” said MORPC Executive Director William Murdock. “Being in one of the fastest growing regions in the Midwest and with the potential to add up to one million people by 2050, we are taking the next steps in exploring the best transportation options for both passengers and freight that will better connect Columbus to Chicago and Pittsburgh.”

The Hyperloop has been embraced by the leaders of the Smart Columbus initiative as a transportation mode of the future, although skeptics of the unproven technology have raised questions about its viability.

“Columbus is recognized as a leader in forward-thinking alternative methods for mobility,” said Michael Stevens, Columbus Chief Innovation Officer and leader of the city’s Smart Columbus effort. “Exploring Hyperloop technology makes sense because we have the thought leadership, a history of successful public-private partnerships and residents who embrace cutting-edge ideas.”

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