St. Louis is the Gateway to the West. It could, someday, become the gateway to the future.
Missouri officials announced Tuesday that they're teaming up to pursue bringing the hyperloop to their state. Los Angeles-based startup Hyperloop One is part of the partnership, which includes players in both the public and private sectors.
The proposed route would connect St. Louis with Kansas City, two metropolises 250 miles apart. A ride that normally takes about four hours by car would be reduced to 25 minutes.
The newly formed Missouri Hyperloop Coalition will conduct a feasibility study of the route. That study will cost an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million.
The coalition includes the Missouri Department of Transportation, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the KC Tech Council, the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia, and the University of Missouri System. The route would include a stop in the middle at Columbia, site of the University of Missouri's 33,000-student flagship campus.
In a statement, Andrew Smith, head of entrepreneurship and innovation for the St. Louis Regional Chamber, said that Missouri has "the most favorable regulatory and cost environment of any proposed build site." Hyperloop One recently unveiled its 10 finalists under consideration for landing the world's first hyperloop. The list, which includes four potential routes in the U.S., did not include Missouri. But the route's backers are pushing forward anyway, and they have Hyperloop One's attention.
"This public-private partnership demonstrates Missouri's commitment to building one of the first hyperloop systems in the world," Rob Lloyd, Hyperloop One co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Missouri Hyperloop Coalition in continuing to develop Missouri's Hyperloop One proposal from Kansas City to St. Louis."
Government participation will be critical for any team looking to land the hyperloop. Colorado, one of the four American finalists, recently revealed it estimates the cost to complete a 360-mile route running through Denver at $24 billion. Hyperloop One currently has $245 million in funding.
In addition to massive costs, any route will have to clear the hurdle of government approval at the state and local levels. Hyperloop One told Inc. earlier this year that it strongly favors a route that already has government participation.
The hyperloop would travel 700 mph in a nearly frictionless tube, likely either at ground level or below. Elon Musk first proposed the technology in 2013, and after initially taking a step back from its development, he has since revealed that he's pursuing it himself.
Hyperloop One has a several-year head start, though. The company earlier this year ran several full-size tests, though the maximum speed the vehicle has gone so far is 192 mph.
The list of finalists Hyperloop One revealed in September includes the Colorado route, as well as pathways in Texas and Florida, and from Chicago to Pittsburgh. It also includes routes in India, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom.