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Hyperloop gets regulatory clarity. Could Missouri still lure its testing site?

St. Louis and Kansas City have vied for Virgin's 12- to 15-mile test track and research center. The test track could cost $30 million to $40 million per mile.
Credit: SLBJ
Pictured is a rendering Virgin Hyperloop's ultrafast hyperloop transportation system, which can be used to transport both cargo and passengers.

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday provided guidance that Virgin Group sees as key to advancing its Hyperloop project. St. Louis is vying for a testing center for the magnetic tube technology.

The department and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council issued a federal regulatory framework for the Hyperloop and other emerging forms of transportation, putting them under the Federal Railroad Administration.

"Except for self-contained urban rapid transit systems, FRA's statutory jurisdiction extends to all entities that provide nonhighway ground transportation over rails or electromagnetic guideways, and extends to future railroads using technologies not yet in use," the document said.

Diana Zhou, Virgin Hyperloop's director of product strategy, said the announcement represents a key step forward.

"When we started the process a year ago of finding a home for the Hyperloop certification center, we didn't know who our regulatory counterpart would be at the federal level," she said. "Now we have a clear point of contact for developing testing processes and procedures, satisfy the regulator and make a product that is safe for passengers."

St. Louis and Kansas City have vied for Virgin's 12- to 15-mile test track and research center. The test track could cost $30 million to $40 million per mile. And a route from St. Louis to Kansas City could cost more than $10 billion, though a route from St. Louis to Chicago is even a possibly, Andrew Smith, who's leading the push to put the center in St. Louis, has said.

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