LIMA — Imagine a mode of transportation that can take passengers from Lima to Columbus in less than 15 minutes.
It may seem impossible, but a team of transportation and sustainability planners from the state’s capitol are in the process of making it happen.
The Columbus-based Midwest Connect team has spent the last two days pitching their idea to Hyperloop One, a group of engineers, technology and transportation experts who are working to develop the world’s first Hyperloop. The proposed method of passenger and freight transportation would propel a pod-like vehicle through a reduced pressure tube that could exceed airliner speed.
The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at high speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. This week, the company finalized the tube installation on its 1,640-foot-long DevLoop, located in the desert outside of Las Vegas. The facility serves as an outdoor lab for its proprietary levitation, propulsion, vacuum and control technologies.
According to Hyperloop One, it could move passengers and cargo between two points “immediately, safely, efficiently and sustainably.”
“It’s much faster than any other form of transportation we have,” said William Murdock, leader of the Midwest Connect team and executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
Lima is along the route of the proposed Hyperloop, which would run from Chicago to Columbus and Pittsburgh. Murdock said it would be “ideal” to stop in Lima, but he added that it’s too early in the process to know for sure.
“There’s a lot of details to be worked out as this moves forward, but we certainly have had great relationships with the City of Lima as we’ve been looking at this route,” he said. “Certainly places like Lima and Fort Wayne are attractive places to connect to Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh. It would be mutually beneficial to everyone.”
The Midwest Connect team is one of 11 U.S. semifinalists that presented this week to Hyperloop One as part of a competition called the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. They join 24 other teams from around the globe, each vying to be among 12 finalists. Murdock said the finalists should be announced within the next two to three months.
Three eventual winners will work closely with Hyperloop One engineering and business development teams to explore project development and financing.
Murdock said he is confident in the Midwest proposal, as it connects major markets in the region.
“Chicago is a center for global business and culture,” Murdock and his team wrote in their proposal to Hyperloop One. “Columbus, Pittsburgh, and other small and midsize communities along the proposed corridor boast emerging economies of innovation, entrepreneurship and advanced manufacturing.
“Connecting these cities with an affordable, high-speed transportation mode will accelerate the assets of our growing region, bringing our citizens, goods and innovation to the world.”
If the project moves forward, passengers and cargo could travel from Chicago to Columbus in 24 minutes, and from Columbus to Pittsburgh in 20 minutes. The total route length would be 488 miles.
“If you’re going from Lima to Columbus, divide that number in half and you’re looking at a real quick trip,” Murdock said.
If constructed, the Midwest team estimates that the corridor could carry more than 1.9 million passenger trips annually, and could transport more than $3.8 billion in cargo.