Could Government Funding Usher in Hyperloop?

 

Elon Musk’s brainchild for propelling train passengers through vacuum tunnels at speeds reaching 700 mph is admittedly still at least three years from becoming commercially viable. Granted, their efforts have been aided by establishing a partnership with Richard Branson and Virgin Group, positive test results, and Musk establishing his Boring Company to create potential underground pathways.

However, the final push in getting the Hyperloop beyond technological excitement and into a real-world application could be the outcry over improving the U.S. infrastructure. A big part of such plans include investments in roads, bridges, and mass transit hubs. President Trump has unveiled plans for spending as much as $1.5 trillion over the next decade for such projects.

Additionally, The Boring Company has received permission from both the District of Columbia and Maryland Department of Transportation to begin exploratory construction and excavation for a proposed Hyperloop that would connect D.C. and Baltimore.

And in the Midwest, the Illinois DOT and Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency have contracted with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to study the feasibility of a Hyperloop between Chicago and Cleveland.

While none of these activities have government funding attached to them, the Hyperloop’s promises of speed could take more vehicles off the road, potentially removing some of the strain of road maintenance and continued investment.

Additionally, the combined use of electrical propulsion and mag-lev power sources could be more efficient than traditional mass transit, especially if proposed solar panels can be integrated into the design to help generate some of that electrical power.

Getting back to the Trump administration’s investment plans, a reported $20 billion has been set aside for “transformative projects” that are described as carrying more risk than standard infrastructure projects, but also offering more potential reward. That would seem to be fit the Hyperloop profile. If the government agrees with this assessment, federal funds could cover as much as 80 percent of construction costs.

 

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