CLEVELAND- Space may be the final frontier, but the next frontier in travel may be going between Cleveland and Chicago -- in 28 minutes.
"Hyperloop is closer than you may think," says Rob Miller, chief marketing officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, "and we are not talking decades away. We're talking years."
Leaders in Northeast Ohio are interested enough they have split the cost of a $1.2 million feasibility study with the company to see if the first such link could be built between the two cities.
"We normally do projects within the greater Cleveland area," says Grace Gallucci, the executive director of NOACA (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency).
"This is looking forward," she says, "20, 30, 40 years when maybe regions would be defined as "mega-regions" and would include Cleveland to Chicago."
The study will examine just what it would take to build a "hyper-loop" between the two cities. It is a breakthrough technology that would put up to 38 people inside a capsule that would be inside of a vacuum tube.
Since there would be no air resistance inside such a tube, incredible speeds would be possible - speeds reportedly around 700 miles an hour.
The capsule would not sit on a track, but would "levitate" inside the tube, and would be powered in part by solar energy and magnets.
While Hyperloop Transportation Technologies does not have specific cost projections yet, a rough estimate would put the cost of construction of a Cleveland to Chicago link at about $18 billion.
Miller says his company envisions a "public/private partnership" that would make money. And he adds that the technology is not the issue.
"All the technologies already exist," he says, "it's really just about putting them together. The more challenging part, the thing that takes a little more time, is building the regulations and building the safety protocols for the system."
A study is also underway about extending a link between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. That trip would reportedly take 15 minutes.