Hyperloop Included in $2.5 Million Columbus-to-Chicago Environmental Impact Study | Hyperloop One
MORPC at DevLoop

Hyperloop Included in $2.5 Million Columbus-to-Chicago Environmental Impact Study

Leslie Horwitz
Strategic Communications, Virgin Hyperloop One

A first for the world

Today, our partners at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), based in Columbus announced a $2.5 million Rapid-Speed Transportation Initiative that will explore hyperloop, alongside traditional rail for the corridor. These actions by MORPC break new ground because they are integrating hyperloop technology into a larger Environmental Impact Study – the first time that has happened anywhere in the world.

In September 2017, we announced the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route as one of the 10 winners of our Global Challenge. During deliberation, it was clear that the Midwest is serious about innovation. We read letters of support from leaders across the region: Ohio Governor John R. Kasich, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the cities of Columbus, Lima, and Fort Wayne.

The Global Challenge unleashed some bold ideas, and now it’s leading to bold action.

Phase 1: Hyperloop Feasibility Study

The first step is a feasibility study where engineers are going to roll up their sleeves and examine route alignment, right-of-way, and the overall technical feasibility of building a hyperloop along the route. The study will also look at the feasibility of the economic and political landscape – providing estimates of transportation demand and economic benefits, implementation strategy, and stakeholder and public engagement strategy.

The Feasibility Study, estimated to take nine months, will analyze potential routes connecting the tech-savvy cities of Columbus and Pittsburgh to the global powerhouse of Chicago -- strengthening market opportunities across the region. A hyperloop connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Chicago would transform the movement of goods and people in the Midwest, and create a Great Lakes Megaregion, home to some 20 percent of the nation’s population and economic activity. There is vast untapped economic potential in the region, as there is currently no direct freight or passenger rail connection along the corridor.

Chicago to Columbus in less than an hour
Chicago to Columbus in less than an hour

Phase 2: Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the Corridor

The second step is beginning an environmental impact study to advance intercity, rapid-speed transportation service between Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh. The study will build upon the feasibility study -- collecting data, documenting existing conditions, preparing a purpose and need statement, providing route alternatives and service alternatives for proposed routes, and evaluating infrastructure investments.

The freight capabilities of a Midwest Hyperloop would solve some of the region’s capacity and access challenges. Currently there is no direct highway route between Chicago and Columbus or Pittsburgh. In 2015, there were 5.9 million tons of freight worth $16.7 billion moved between Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. This tonnage is expected to increase to 9 million by 2040 at nearly double the value, according to the federal Department of Transportation.

As the winner of the U.S. Government’s Smart City Challenge, Columbus and Central Ohio are on the cutting edge of transportation technology. Now, the region is leading the nation by exploring forward-thinking transportation options, and incorporating hyperloop technology into a project originally focused on traditional passenger rail.

The Global Challenge was the beginning. By taking these steps the region is demonstrating its commitment to co-developing smart, new technologies and declaring its bid for the real prize.