CLEVELAND, Ohio - Hyperloop, a proposal to move people through a tube at near the speed of sound, has become one step closer to reality with a commitment to fund a feasibility study for the first ever interstate route between Cleveland and Chicago.
The proposed Hyperloop would theoretically enable people to travel between Cleveland and Chicago in less than a half hour at about 700 miles per hour, more than twice the speed of a high speed train.
Passengers would sit in 'pods' that would race through a vacuum tube completing trips in just minutes that might normally take hours.
The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, also known as NOACA, was not commenting ahead of a February 26 news conference, but Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, based in California, has announced that the company and NOACA have signed the first US feasibility study for the route.
The company announcement on Thursday says the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is teaming with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to begin a feasibility study for the region. Several corridors have been identified for study connecting Cleveland to Chicago.
Support for HTT's Hyperloop system has been widespread throughout the region with Ohio's legislature passing a resolution for the initiative in 2017. In January, HTT worked alongside a bipartisan group of congressional representatives from several states including Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin sent a formal letter to President Donald Trump requesting infrastructure funding support to develop the system.
"We came here because places like Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the manufacturing, the raw materials and the talented, hardworking people in order to make it happen," said Andrea La Mendola, chief global operations officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. "We can source everything from this area. This is a place where you make big things."
Great Lakes Science Center President and CEO Kirsten Ellenbogen on Friday praised the contract citing how much the area would gain if Cleveland was to become a Hyperloop launching site.
"It's impressive what we have been able to get done here in Cleveland so far. It puts us ahead of the pack among so many other cities that are interested in this locally. The fact that we have signatures on paper, it's great work and great collaboration and great forward thinking among leaders in this region," said Ellenbogen.
Others on Friday were dreaming of what such a route would mean for the local economy and for the future of transoportation.
"To be 28 minutes from Chicago makes us a suburb of Chicago and that means we could work in the loop. It means we could shop in Chicago for things that cities maybe the size of Cleveland doesn't have," said Bill Ferry, repesenting The National Model Railroad Association Division 4 at the Great Lakes Science Center on Friday.
In fact, the course could theoretically create a thriving demand for housing or tourism near its terminal.
The feasibility study could begin as soon as March but there is no indication of how long it might be afterwards before a Hyperloop becomes a reality, or if that were to ever happen at all.