Hyperloop route between Kansas City and St. Louis in the works

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COLUMBIA - A hyperloop route could become a reality in Missouri, making a commute from Kansas City to St. Louis a 30 minute trip.

Missouri officials announced a partnership Tuesday between public and private groups to fund a feasibility study for the high speed tube-based transportation. The groups include the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the KC Tech Council and the University of Missouri System.

The study will cost around $1.5 million of private funds, and the consortium is aiming to gather the money within the next month.

A route between Kansas City and St. Louis was conceived after a Missouri task force was looking for a "moonshot" project, an epic new project that would get the attention of the rest of the nation and the rest of the world.

Bill Turpin, President and CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center, said a hyperloop route was just what the state was looking for; something to bring social and economic impact to Missouri.

"Missouri is a state with, I think, 80 percent of its population on the edges. That creates a political situation here where we're kind of regionalized. The hyperloop might help bring us together as a state, help unify us," Turpin said.

Turpin said the construction of a hyperloop could bring millions in revenue to the state, with a rough figure of $5 to $10 million per mile.

"That would go into salaries, construction work, materials work. Maybe we could even manufacture the cars that go in it in St. Louis or Kansas City," Turpin said.

It currently takes around three hours and 40 minutes to get from Kansas City to St. Louis by car. A commercial flight takes closer to an hour, not including waiting times and security checkpoints at the airport. A hyperloop route would reduce the trip to a little less than half an hour, with pods traveling at speeds upwards of 700 mph.

Hyperloop One showed great interest in a Missouri route due to its east to west orientation, relatively flat terrain to build on, and a motivated force behind local and state officials to complete the project.

"We were really excited about this particular route because not only is it a great route and connects really vital cities, but it also comes with the support of the state government and the private sector," said Dan Katz, transportation policy counsel for Hyperloop One.

"Our geography played a lot to do with it, but also the notion that DOT was willing to forward an application. We have a history of project delivery," said Patrick McKenna, director of MoDOT.

The coalition was formed in response to Hyperloop One's global challenge results, which searched the globe for the best and most feasible hyperloop sites. The KC-STL route didn't make the top 10, but that didn't stop Missourians from showing interest in a hyperloop route.

"As soon as the results of our challenge were out, the team from Missouri really stepped it up and put together this incredible coalition, made it very clear to us that they really have the ingredients you need for a successful project, ready to go," Katz said. "As far as we're concerned, they're in the winners circle now."

"Even if we don't land this project, we're learning how to work together, we're seeing how we can play together on the same team for the benefit of the state," Turpin said.

Hyperloop One plans to have its first route completed by 2021.

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