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‘Hyperloop’ tech could transform Great Lakes region

YOUNGSTOWN – Imagine a turbulence-free, straight shot from Cleveland to Chicago in less than 30 minutes, inside a capsule that doesn’t use any fuel.

New technology could carry people and maybe freight in such a futuristic way – not long from now – reducing the five hour-plus commute time by 290 percent.

And that’s just in the first phase of the proposed Great Lakes Hyperloop system. If the project gains the momentum that it needs to become a reality, a second phase would add Youngstown and Pittsburgh to the route.

“Hyperloop brings airplane speeds to ground level safely. Passengers and cargo capsules will hover through a network of low-pressure tubes between cities and transform travel time from hours to minutes,” a webpage describing the project states.

The system would use electromagnetic propulsion and rechargeable batteries, creating a “silent and emission-free” mode of transportation, according to GreatLakesHyperloop.com.

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency is working with the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Transportation and several other government and nonprofits, in collaboration with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

A $1.2 million project feasibility study is underway, funded by $550,000 in commitments NOACA secured with ODOT, the Cleveland Foundation and the Ohio Turnpike. It is expected to be completed and released in the late fall.

A public meeting is scheduled 10 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 7 at Eastgate, on the 10th floor of 100 E Federal St., to share information and gauge public support about the project.

“We are looking at years and years of construction, but that will turn into years and years of benefits,” said Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate.

It is unclear how much the initial construction would cost, but it could be in the billions.

But if it comes to fruition, there would be an influx of construction jobs in the area, jobs to build the structures used in the Hyperloop and an untold degree of economic benefits from superfast connections among the Great Lakes hubs, Kinnick said.

If the feasibility study goes well, the project would enter into its initial stages of planning, including route analysis and environmental studies, which could take two years, Kinnick said.

If everything goes well, construction could begin in 2025.

“That is the best-case scenario,” Kinnick said.

If well-received, the Hyperloop could eventually expand to reach the east and west coast, further connecting people in the Mahoning Valley and Great Lakes region to economic opportunities, Kinnick said.

“It is exciting to be a part of such a forward-thinking vision,” Kinnick said.

Kinnick said he could envision cross-country partnerships that grow the areaás chances to attract warehousing and freight centers. While it is primarily being studied as a people mover now, adding freight to the system could offer even more opportunities, Kinnick said.

The system could use a combination of raised pylons, deep-bored tunnels and low-elevated guideways designed to decrease friction and increase efficiency.

With no curves, the average commercial speed of the capsules would be about 667 mph and complete the trip between Cleveland and Chicago in about 28 minutes, the presentation states.

In another simulation using more elevation than the first, the trip would take 36 minutes at an average speed of 557 mph, the presentation states.

The speed of the trip depends on how straight the route is.

The system would have no turbulence because of the pressurization, would be safe because the transports don’t carry fuel, and has been deemed “insurable,” according to GreatLakesHyperloop.com.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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