The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) announced on June 20 AECOM and WSP USA will be the lead consultants on the feasibility and environmental impact studies of MORPC’s Rapid-Speed Transportation Initiative (RSTI), an effort to explore intercity routes that could utilize two rapid-speed transportation technology options – traditional passenger rail and Virgin Hyperloop One technology — between Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh. The launch of the two studies is believed to be the first in the world to initiate both a feasibility study and environmental impact study around the use of Hyperloop technology.
“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. “This is the first route in the world that incorporates Hyperloop technology into both a feasibility study and an environmental impact study. Adding AECOM and WSP to the RSTI team demonstrates our commitment to this effort.”
“It is because of visionary transportation agencies like MORPC that hyperloop is moving forward in the United States. We are excited to collaborate with these world-class public and private sector partners to connect the Midwest with rapid speed transport that will fuel future economic activity,” said Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd. “The potential is enormous – to connect some 20 percent of the nation’s population and economic activity and create a vibrant, globally-competitive Great Lakes Megaregion.”
AECOM, a design, engineering, construction, and management firm with experience in both the private and public sectors, will conduct the feasibility study of Hyperloop technology for the corridor. The study will include visioning and technology application, route planning, transportation demand and economic benefit analysis, regulatory framework and implementation strategy, project management, and stakeholder and public engagement. The study will include two potential route alignments for evaluation. One option follows the rail corridor featured in the Hyperloop One Global Challenge Midwest Connect corridor proposal; the other is an alternative to be defined as part of the study work. At minimum, the potential routes will include the following cities: Chicago, Fort Wayne, Lima, Marysville, Columbus and Pittsburgh. The study is expected to be completed by March 2019.
WSP USA, a professional engineering firm, will conduct Tier One of the environmental impact study (EIS) of the corridor. The components of this study will collect data, document existing conditions, prepare a purpose and need statement, provide route alternatives and service alternatives for proposed routes, evaluate infrastructure investments and coordinate public involvement. It also will incorporate work for the corridor portion between Chicago, Ft. Wayne and Lima currently underway by the Indiana corridor partners that includes the city of Ft. Wayne in collaboration with the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association. The EIS is expected to be completed in July 2019.
WSP also will work with AECOM on the feasibility study. The two firms will partner with Lawhon & Associates, an environmental engineering firm for their local environmental knowledge, and Engage Public Affairs, a public affairs firm for strategic communications assistance.
Midwest Connect, spearheaded by MORPC and other regional partners, was one of 10 global winners of the Virgin Hyperloop One Global Challenge. The advanced route analysis, paramount in winning the challenge, included the only route selected in the United States to cross four states; Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. It is also the first in the U.S. to focus on leveraging major freight assets in the Midwest, the epicenter of freight movement in North America. Virgin Hyperloop One, sponsors of the global challenge, is the only company in the world to have a fully operational Hyperloop system.
Multiple partners have committed financial resources to the initiative including the cities of Columbus, Marysville and Lima; Ohio and Indiana rail partners including MORPC; and Union County. Additional support is expected from other public and private partners.
Submitted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.