Ohio officials are a step closer to their vision of building a faster transportation service to get people and freight from Pittsburgh to Chicago via Columbus. A hyperloop line would use a mix of existing rail lines, highways, and tunnels to connect the three cities as well as three towns between Columbus and Chicago. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has released the results of its Midwest Connect study to find the most affordable route for a hyperloop connection between Columbus, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.
The study found that a hyperloop route would connect Chicago and Columbus in under 45 minutes with an estimated ticket cost of $60, compared to spending nearly six hours driving or buying a plane ticket for about $100. Hyperloop riders could go from Columbus to Pittsburgh in under 30 minutes with an estimated ticket cost of $33, compared to spending nearly three hours driving or buying a plane ticket for about $150.
The study found that, over 30 years, a hyperloop route would result in the following:
- 1.9 billion autos shifted to hyperloop passengers
- 2.4 million tons of reduced CO2 emissions (over $126 million in emissions savings)
- 450 million commercial truck vehicle hours traveled will be eliminated
- $300 billion in overall economic benefits (nearly $19 billion of that in direct transportation benefits
Consulting firm AECOM did the feasibility study for MORPC’s Rapid Speed Transportation Initiative (RSTI) that focuses on faster connections from Columbus to Chicago and Pittsburgh.
“We have continued to advance the work along this corridor ever since winning the Virgin Hyperloop One Global Challenge in 2017 and conducting this feasibility study was one of our first, major action steps,” said Thea Ewing, transportation and infrastructure development director at MORPC, in a press release. “The main takeaway is that hyperloop technology is, indeed, feasible along this route.”
The research team analyzed route alignments, comparative costs, engineering complexity, public right of ways, environmental constraints, ridership volumes, and travel behavior.
AECOM looked at existing rail lines between the cities in the study to determine how much existing rail line could be used for hyperloop track. The hyperloop needs a straight and flat track to maintain speeds of 500 mph and up. AECOM also considered whether the median of existing highways could be used as well as the need for tunnels. The analysts concluded that existing rail corridors would not work and proposed a combination of existing rail and road/highway corridors, as well as some tunneling and greenfield portions for which right-of-way will need to be acquired.
The analysts also considered population growth in the region to measure potential riders. Fort Wayne, IN, and Pittsburgh are expected to grow in population by at least 10% between 2015 and 2040, with Chicago and Columbus expected to see the highest increase of over 20% population growth.
Ohio is competing with nine other states in its bid to bring a Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) to the region. The center would support the expansion and improvement of hyperloop technology to achieve key technological milestones such as faster speeds and turning, and political ones, such as creating a national framework for safety certification. The commission plans these next steps:
- Collaboration with Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission: Support a rapid speed transportation feasibility study between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York that includes hyperloop technology.
- Hyperloop Certification Center: Proposal to acquire the world’s first hyperloop technology certification center.
- Maglev proposal: Request for $5 million to do planning work for a maglev line from Columbus International Airport, Downtown Columbus, and Dublin.
- Federal Regulatory Framework: Look for collaboration opportunities with the New Emerging Transportation Technologies Council to develop regulatory frameworks for hyperloop technology as it pertains to safety, environmental considerations, and other issues.