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Missouri Officials Eye Test Track For Super-Fast Hyperloop Transit System

Curious onlookers get a closer look at Hyperloop One as it sits on display on a downtown city street in St. Louis on Tuesday, October 8, 2019.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI
Onlookers get a closer look at Hyperloop One as it sits on display on a downtown city street in St. Louis on Oct. 8.

Have you ever wanted to have barbecue in Kansas City or gaze at the Columns in Columbia — but didn’t have time to make the drive to those two cities from St. Louis? 

Missouri officials want to solve your dilemma by investing in a tube rapid transportation system that could travel from St. Louis to Kansas City in roughly 30 minutes.

At a press conference Monday in St. Louis, some of Missouri’s political leaders advocated for trying to place the state in the best position to build what’s known as a national certification track. The test track could be the precursor to building the St. Louis-to-Kansas City line that would go more than 600 miles per hour. 

The report the panel put outon Monday acknowledged the St. Louis-to-Kansas City route would be a long-term objective, with a cost ranging from $7.3 billion to $10.4 billion. The certification track would cost up to $500 million.

“The national certification track would serve as the natural center for research and development of the technology and should be supported by a robust ecosystem of academic and industry partners led by the University of Missouri system,” the report states.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, a Springfield Republican who formed the panel examining the Hyperloop, told reporters that the technology could supercharge economic development throughout the state — and create thousands of jobs.

“We’ve always sort of been on the cutting edge of this type of thing,” Haahr said. “And I think the Hyperloop is exactly that — it’s the next step in transportation, and it’s the next place where we can sort of lead the country.”

The push to embrace the Hyperloop comes as the state has struggled for years to find more money for roads. Missouri lawmakers recently passed a bonding plan aimed at fixing dozens of the state’s bridges, a move that came after voters rejected a gas-tax hike in 2018 and a sales-tax increase in 2014.

Asked about whether investing any state money in the Hyperloop makes sense when Missouri’s existing transportation network needs so much money, Haahr said that the technology could solve some of the state’s transportation woes.

“Building the Hyperloop would alleviate a lot of the problems with our interstate system,” Haahr said. “The wear and tear, the human cost of access, would go down significantly.”

Andrew Smith, vice chairman of the panel Haahr formed to look into the Hyperloop, said it’s unclear right now who would operate the Hyperloop, but added it’s likely there would have to be state involvement to “protect taxpayer interests.”

Smith also said there’s been estimates that a passenger would pay roughly the cost of a tank of gas to go from St. Louis to Kansas City.

“Again, there are other models out there. If somebody’s traveling on a daily basis or weekly basis, there could be a pass system that they buy into,” Smith said. “We just don’t know. I think it’s far too soon to speculate about what rates would be.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.