JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — ST. LOUIS — A panel of state officials and business leaders on Monday pushed Missouri to make a bid to host a test track for an ultra-high-speed Hyperloop system.
The recommendation is the result of a months-long study commissioned by state House Speaker Elijah Haahr to investigate the possibility of bringing the futuristic technology to the state.
The goal is to build a tubular track through which a train-like pod will carry passengers at speeds of more than 600 mph. Magnets make the pods hover, reducing friction and enabling high-speed transit.
Missouri supporters envision connecting Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis with a Hyperloop system that could cut a roughly four-hour drive across the state down to a 30-minute commute.
"We always call St. Louis the Gateway to the west, with building the Hyperloop in Missouri, we’d become the Gateway to the world," said Missouri Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr.
Out in the Mojave Desert, Virgin's Hyperloop One already has a test track. The only problem? It's only about .3 of a mile long.
Researchers say the next step is to build a test track, up to 12 miles long.
Haahr wants it inMissouri.
"We think construction can begin as early as a year from now," he said.
Missouri will have to win that contract from Virgin, but along with it, will come a $500 million price tag.
He fully admits some of that money may come from your taxes.
"We think the lion's share of this will be paid by private investment because everybody knows if we’re able to completely innovate the way we do transportation, if we can move goods between places and people between places there will be a huge return on investment," said Haahr.
We asked Haahr what's the benefit of the test track if the full project never actually happens?
"The amount of money and time for the research and time for the research and design would pay for itself many times over," he said.
The ultimate dream, to build out the rest of the test track to connect Lambert St. Louis International Airport to the K and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
The estimated cost to build a full Hyperloop system across Missouri ranges from $30 million to $40 million per mile. That's somewhere between $7.3 billion and $10.4 billion total.
The project needs $50 million to $100 million for research and development alone in the next three years to continue.
Panel members advised that private investment would be key to the project's success.