CLEVELAND — It was three years ago this month that the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) announced a partnership with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to produce a $1.3 million feasibility study on the idea of building a Cleveland to Chicago Hyperloop that could travel 313 miles in 28 minutes. Nearly two years later, that study produced results so promising the route was expanded to include Pittsburgh and now we've learned potentially New York City.
"I think that's probably the most exciting part to me if they can get that agreement and start doing the feasibility study from Cleveland to New York that really positions us to be the center of two large cities,” said NOACA Executive Director and CEO Grace Gallucci. “It was part of our network so if you look at our maps that definitely was what we were thinking of, but now maybe sooner rather than later.”
Hyperloop travel involves capsules around 100 feet in length using passive magnetics to levitate in essentially a vacuum tube where they can travel at speeds of up to 700 miles an hour, which actually enables it to generate more energy than it uses — a factor that will eventually offset the estimated construction cost of $50 million a mile.
HyperloopTT has a full-scale capsule and test track in France and is hoping to have a 5-kilometer prototype in Abu Dhabi open to passengers in two to three years.
Gallucci said the company updated the NOACA Board last month on where they are and their plans. “They've added hundreds of engineers, they've made some partnerships, one of them being with Ferrovial, which is the public-private operator of [London's] Heathrow Airport.” They also recently partnered with Hitachi for use of their signaling technology.
Because of HyperloopTT's work, those partnerships they've built and the Cleveland feasibility study, which was the most extensive review of its kind published so far, Gallucci said there's even more interest in making Cleveland's route one of the first.
“We have a number of folks internationally that have reached out to us to say you are the most probable one to move forward and have talked to us about, none of which I can say who they are, but talk about partnering with us rather than doing their own,” Gallucci said. “They'd like to see one done somewhere in the world and that we all kind of build off of that.”
Like every aspect of life, COVID has slowed some of their work, like their efforts to raise $5 million for an environmental analysis looking at the route, which will be both above and below ground, from an environmental engineering point of view.
“With COVID there are many other priorities at the federal level,” Gallucci said. “These very futuristic projects, not that they're taking a backseat, but they're not getting as much attention.”
HyperloopTT leadership has always said this was a project that could be realized in years, not decades, and Gallucci believes if everything goes smooth, that could still be true.
“I still think that that's where we're all thinking, ten years. If everything were to go right from today forward, yes, ten years you can be riding on the Hyperloop from Cleveland to Chicago.”