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Early funding for Chicago-to-Cleveland hyperloop passes U.S. House

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The futuristic 700-MPH mass transit system takes a small step closer to reality

With hyperloop technology, the 310-mile trip between Chicago and Cleveland could take just 28 minutes.
Courtesy HyperloopTT

The idea of zipping from the Loop to O’Hare in 12 minutes though Elon Musk’s subterranean tunnel is all but dead in the water. But Cleveland-Chicago in under a half-an-hour through high-speed tubes? That futuristic plan is very much alive.

The Great Lakes Hyperloop System took another step towards reality last week as the U.S House of Representatives earmarked $5 million for the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to develop safety and environmental standards for hyperloop projects and to identify regulatory gaps. The bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate.

If approved, the bill would open up the Great Lakes Hyperloop System for future federal funding. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and California-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) are currently in the midst of a $1.2 million feasibility study, expected to be completed this fall.

HyperloopTT’s experimental transportation system calls for the construction of a closed steel pipeline between Chicago and Cleveland. Up to 164,000 passengers a day would silently travel in pressurized capsules through the tubes via electromagnetic propulsion and hover on a frictionless magnetic cushion at “airplane speeds” (over 700 MPH). At that rate, the 310-mile commute between the two Midwestern cities would clock in at 28 minutes.

Hyperloop test tunnel

If that doesn’t already sound like the stuff of science fiction, the technology company says they’re building their pods from a new material called Vibranium—a sensor-embedded carbon-fiber material that is stronger than steel and five times as light. If that sounds familiar, it’s the fictional metal from Marvel Comics’ Black Panther.

HyperloopTT recently hosted USDOT officials at the company research facilities in Toulouse, France to see the preliminary system prior to the construction of a commercial system in Abu Dhabi—where they’re preparing human trials in 2020.

Meanwhile Virgin, which is developing a competing hyperloop system called Hyperloop One, also traveled to Capitol Hill last month to speak to Congress at the “Hyperloop On The Hill” event.

“We are seeing growing interest and excitement in the hyperloop vision from across the United States at both local and federal level,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, in a statement. “I believe we could see a hyperloop in the U.S. in years, not decades.”

Virgin’s Hyperloop One also has its sights set on bringing the high-speed transportation technology to the Windy City. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is currently conducting a feasibility study for a proposed hyperloop route connecting Chicago, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.