LIMA — Lima may be one of the first cities in the world to make use of innovative hyperloop technology, which would dramatically decrease travel times between Lima and some of the largest cities in the region — Columbus, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
The Midwest Hyperloop route, which Lima sits upon, had been chosen in September by Virgin Hyperloop One as one of ten routes it is looking to develop within the coming years, and governmental leaders, including Mayor David Berger, have been pushing for the creation of a hyperloop system as a game-changing transportation option that could potentially transform how the local economy functions.
Today, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) announced the steps it’s taking — a $2.5 million initiative paid for by private and public organizations to conduct both a feasibility study and environmental impact study for the route’s corridor, which lays the governmental framework for either a hyperloop or passenger rail line. The $2.5 million would also cover some future phases of the project.
The feasibility study would determine the demand for the project, what it would ultimately look like and how it would integrate into the larger transportation system.
The environmental impact study is the first step in the federal process of creating major transportation systems like highways or rail services, documenting existing conditions, preparing a purpose and need statement, providing route alternatives and evaluating infrastructure investments.
Rail partners from Ohio and Indiana, Union County, Marysville, Columbus and a myriad of private partners have all verbally committed funds to the $2.5 million initiative. The City of Lima promised $5,000 and an additional $80,000 was committed by private organizations in the region.
A hyperloop is a closed system that relies on magnetic force to shoot levitating pods, or freight packets, along its route. In a nutshell, hyperloops are similar to the pneumatic tube systems seen at bank drive-throughs, but much bigger. In theory, the hyperloop is capable of sending freight and passengers at speeds up to 750 miles an hour, which would reduce the time it takes to reach Chicago to 30 minutes.
“It makes us a suburb of Pittsburgh or Chicago,” Berger said.
Virgin Hyperloop One, based out of Los Angeles, has constructed a working hyperloop system, although there are plenty of problems to solve with the technology before it can be rolled out as a public transportation option. For example, the company has created a test track, but it has yet to ramp up the speeds to where pods are pushing the sound barrier. Also, no human beings have actually ridden the hyperloop vehicles.
“We need to make sure eggs don’t break before we put people in there,” Dina Lopez, freight planner with the MORPC, said.
Both studies would be completed after roughly 12 months, Lopez said. Construction could begin in as little as five to seven years depending on government planning and the development of the technology.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.