LIMA — Transportation and township officials got a chance to view updated information on the potential Hyperloop route linking Chicago and Pittsburgh via Lima this Thursday during the Lima/Allen County Regional Planning Commission’s monthly transportation meeting. And while the project may still be decades away from completion, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission Strategic Projects Manager Dina Lopez has been fielding plenty of practical questions.
How much will a Hyperloop trip on the expected route cost? Between Chicago and Columbus? Roughly $60. Between Chicago and Pittsburgh? You’ll be looking closer to $90.
How many people per pod? Estimates are coming in at 22 to 28 people.
How many people will use the line per day? Some calculations put the number at 16,000.
“So far, there have been good questions. They more and more see the fact that this is actually viable,” Lopez said. “Now, it’s starting to sink in.”
The latest report by MORPC sets up a few scenarios for transportation systems linking Lima to Chicago and Columbus. After reviewing existing routes of current freight and highways, MORPC estimates that high speed passenger rail could be built in the area with an additional route extending to Kenton. Hyperloop, on the other hand, would require a straighter shot than the right-of-way that’s currently available, meaning that a passenger rail and Hyperloop system most likely will not be built alongside each other.
Each system also requires slightly different steps to move forward. While passenger rail technology is already developed, the desire for the project isn’t as strong, Lopez said. On the other side, the Hyperloop technology may have caught the attention of potential investors, but it still needs a strong regulatory framework and further technical development.
Both, however, need additional funding. But there is some interest. Lopez said JobsOhio has started to be involved in the planning efforts. Next steps for the project include talking to city and states along the route not already involved to see if they are interested in pushing the initiative forward.
As for comments from local public officials, Perry Township Trustee Kevin Cox said he could see the freight benefits of a Hyperloop system. Lopez agreed. A positive of the Hyperloop is being able to send high value time-sensitive goods without having to worry about weather conditions — a function some international logistics companies are exploring. Initial Hyperloop cargo estimates provided by MORPC outpace both air and rail freight between Columbus, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
City of Lima Public Works Director Howard Elstro asked about the number of riders expected to use the system. Lopez estimated that Hyperloop’s primarily appeal will be for those who typically use air travel. With many airports already dealing with high demand, MORPC forecasts that future travelers will be chomping at the bit for another option if or when a Hyperloop service connects Chicago and Pittsburgh. The system could potentially serve 1.9 million passengers annually by 2040.
Not all comments, however, were positive. A future issue explored by those at Thursday’s meeting is the expected right-of-way battle if the Hyperloop project goes forward. Due to lack of available right-of-way, the state may eventually face a protracted legal effort to secure the land it needs, but Lopez said those problems are from being resolved until the project starts to see more detailed planning.
“The mayor said it best. This technology is transformative,” LARPC Executive Director Thom Mazur said. “What happens next is something that we’ll have to wait and see.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.