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St. Louis, Kansas City Aren’t Giving Up on High-Speed Connection

A model of the Hyperloop One project on display in November 2016 (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

A route between Kansas City and St. Louis was cut from the latest round of Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge, but regional leaders might go ahead with the high-speed concept anyway.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Transportation, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the KC Tech Council, the University of Missouri System and the Missouri Innovation Center, in Columbia, announced the formation of a public-private partnership that will work to bring the low-pressure, high-speed system to the area, the Columbia Missourian reports. The proposed 248-mile route would link the two Midwest cities along Interstate 70. Driving between them takes about four hours, but at an estimated speed of 671 mph, the envisioned system would transport passengers in about 30 minutes.

The Hyperloop’s design calls for people to board pods that are whisked through a tube from Points A to B using a combination of electric propulsion and magnetic levitation. A good comparison would be the pneumatic tubes used by many bank drive-throughs.

According to the paper, the Missouri coalition plans to seek money from private sources to fund the proposal’s next step, a feasibility study that would cost roughly $1.5 million.

“We can’t tell you it will be successful, but we know for sure that if we don’t do the feasibility study, it won’t be built here,” Bill Turpin, CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center, told the paper.

Hyperloop One has encouraged the partnership.

“This public-private partnership demonstrates Missouri’s commitment to building one of the first Hyperloop systems in the world,” Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One, said in a news release.

Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge selected four finalist routes from the U.S. and 10 worldwide in September. The U.S. routes run through the Denver metro; from Chicago to Pittsburgh; from Miami to Orlando; and from Dallas to Houston. Other routes link Glasgow to Liverpool in the U.K., Mexico City to Guadalajara in Mexico, and Mumbai to Chennai in India.

As I wrote for Next City, selection in the challenge doesn’t automatically mean that the tubes will be built. However, Hyperloop One has stated that it “will commit meaningful business and engineering resources and work closely with each of the winning teams/routes to determine their commercial viability,” going forward.

And the Denver route seems closer to reality. As a result of the challenge, Hyperloop One and the Colorado Department of Transportation, with support from engineering firm AECOM, announced their own public-private partnership to kick off a feasibility study.

“We are excited to partner with Hyperloop One in exploring the next step of feasibility of this innovative technology, potentially transforming how Colorado moves,” CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt told Denver’s local Fox News channel at the time. “The Hyperloop technology could directly align with our goals of improving mobility and safety in Colorado, and we have been encouraged by the continued progress the technology is taking.”