LIMA — When Virgin Hyperloop One asked a group of government officials if they would be willing to ride a sled careening 300 miles per hour through a half-mile tube in the Mojave Desert, Mayor Dave Berger had no problem raising his hand.
“I love it. I love roller coasters, all kinds of things fast like that,” Berger said.
This past weekend, Berger flew to California to see a hyperloop in action, first stopping at Virgin Hyperloop One’s engineering offices in Los Angeles, and then driving to the only hyperloop test site in the world to see the technology in action.
Berger was invited to attend because of plans being developed by a wide-range of municipalities and regional planning organizations to set up a hyperloop route between Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh, which if all goes according to the original idea, will include Lima.
The innovative new technology would make places over 300 miles from Lima, like Chicago, only a 30-minute ride away. To do so, individuals would ride magnetic sleds, or pods, shot through giant pneumatic tubes controlled autonomously. Passengers could reach speeds up to 700 miles per hour.
Virgin Hyperloop One is currently developing the technology and is working with government entities to plan four routes in the United States. The technology, however, is not considered safe enough for passengers quite yet.
“It’s a fascinating approach, and I think it has a great deal of promise,” Berger said. “I think it’s really important to understand that what we’re describing with this system is not a train where you got multiple cars hooked physically together and being pulled along by an engine. This instead should be thought of as really kind of a high speed interstate system inside a tube.”
Virgin Hyperloop One has plans to construct an additional 15 miles of tube next year to reach higher speeds and prove the possibility of safe passenger travel.
“I think people were really taken by the reality of it and how much has been accomplished with four years of work that’s been focused on really producing a system that will be first of all, safe and second, very economical,” Berger said.
Although the technology is steadily progressing, government approval still requires more than a few steps. The first is a series of studies to test the feasibility and environmental impact of such a route for hyperloop and high-speed passenger rail. The first round of studies is slated to be finished by June 2019.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.