Imagine climbing into a transportation chamber or pod in Pittsburgh and zipping to Chicago in less than an hour instead of the usual seven hours on the road in a car, complete with rest stop breaks, road work and traffic jams. If hyperloop technology is fully developed and implemented, that journey of science fiction proportions could become a reality in the not-too-distant future.
Hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of cylinders with low air pressure that allow travel mainly free of resistance or friction.
The announcement that Virgin Hyperloop One will build a certification center in West Virginia for the high-speed transportation concept is splendid news for the Mountain State and our region.
The company chose the site from more than a dozen states in the running to construct a six-mile testing track and related research facilities. More than 800 acres in Tucker and Grant counties will be used to accommodate the electromagnetic levitation transportation technology complex.
The hyperloop system, which Tesla founder Elon Musk is also developing, hopes to eventually offer fast, clean-energy travel across the U.S. Experts in the field say certification for commercial travel, with passengers and goods moving underground at over 600 mph, is still expected to be at least a decade away.
Company and state officials said the new center will produce thousands of temporary construction jobs, employing up to 200 full-time workers when finished.
Construction is likely to begin in 2021 on an assembly facility for pods, safety centers and other operations.
Missouri had hoped to land the project for an ultrafast Hyperloop track that would transport passengers between St. Louis and Kansas City in 30 minutes. State lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill that would give the Missouri Highways and Transportation Committee the authority to form a public-private partnership to build it.
Delaware, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Washington state reportedly were also in the running for the facility.
The company did not say if any financial incentives were offered in West Virginia’s proposal. Mike Schneider, a vice president at Virgin Hyperloop, said the company was not “looking for gigantic tax breaks.” A spokesperson said that the project is expected to be financed by private and public funds.
Virgin will partner with Marshall University and West Virginia University, which predicted the center will add $48 million annually to the state’s economy. The U.S. Department of Transportation is lending its support with new grants for companies such as Virgin.
Our area seems to get left behind in some ways, so it’s reassuring to know that our region will play a part in development of the cutting-edge technology.