COLUMBUS – On May 20, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) released the final report of its “Midwest Connect” Hyperloop Feasibility Study, which found that hyperloop technology is feasible along the corridor connecting Columbus with Chicago (via Lima, Ohio and Fort Wayne, Indiana) and Pittsburgh.
The feasibility study – which began in earnest in late 2018 – is part of MORPC’s Rapid Speed Transportation Initiative (RSTI) that focuses on better, faster connections to Chicago and Pittsburgh. The RSTI looks at transportation options that would not only enhance passenger and freight transportation in the Midwest, but also spur economic growth, generate opportunities for development, and create new opportunities for people and businesses in the Midwest megaregion.
“We have continued to advance the work along this corridor ever since winning the Virgin Hyperloop One Global Challenge for the Midwest Connect route, and conducting this feasibility study was one of our first, major action steps,” MORPC Transportation & Infrastructure Development Director Thea Ewing said. “The main takeaway is that hyperloop technology is, indeed, feasible along this route at its optimal speeds of more than 500 mph.”
Additional findings from the study include:
• The technology requires a straight alignment. While some portions of the route could be built within existing rail corridors, the route would also need new right-of-way in order to achieve optimal speeds.
• Lima, Marysville, Dublin and Columbus were identified as potential stations in Ohio.
• There is currently no passenger rail service connecting the Fort Wayne-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh market. Columbus is currently the second largest metro area in the United States with no passenger rail service.
• Columbus and Chicago are expected to grow in population by more than 20 percent, with Fort Wayne and Pittsburgh seeing an increase of at least 10%.
• Chicago, Fort Wayne and Columbus will experience more than 15% employment growth, with at least 12% growth in Lima and Pittsburgh.
Over 30 years, a hyperloop route would result in:
• $1.9 billion autos shifted to hyperloop passengers
• $2.4 million tons of reduced CO2 emissions (over $126 million in emissions savings)
• $450 million commercial truck vehicle hours traveled will be eliminated
• $300 billion in overall economic benefits (nearly $19 billion of direct transportation benefits)
• At this time, a $0.20 per mile fare cost is estimated, which results in roughly $60 for a ticket from Columbus to Chicago and $33 for a ticket from Columbus to Pittsburgh.
“MORPC began presenting some of the initial findings to communities along the corridor last fall, and we used the feedback to summarize the study’s various data-driven analyses in a manner that would be comprehensive and understandable,” MORPC Strategic Projects Manager Dina López said. “With this final report, we can continue moving forward with the Rapid Speed Transportation Initiative’s main objective of providing affordable, faster intercity connections with both hyperloop and passenger rail technologies.”
The hyperloop feasibility study was conducted by AECOM on behalf of MORPC and its Ohio partners, which include Union County and the cities of Lima, Kenton, Marysville, Dublin and Columbus.
Next steps include collaborating with stakeholders to advance a certification corridor segment for Virgin Hyperloop One technology in central Ohio; creating a travel and economic demand advisory panel to improve and further refine the high-level analyses developed under the feasibility study; and working with state and federal transportation officials to advance a regulatory framework for hyperloop technology.
Information for this story was provided by MORPC.