North Carolina is the latest state to throw its hat into the Hyperloop One ring. Today, Virgin Hyperloop One announced that North Carolina’s Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA) was launching a pre-feasibility study to connect the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the RDU International Airport.
According to initial estimates, with a Hyperloop One system in place, trips from Raleigh to Durham or Chapel Hill (about 30 miles) could take less than 10 minutes. The cities are referred to as the Research Triangle, as the three cities are home to three major universities: North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Hyperloop One system utilizes electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation in a vacuum-like tunnel to run pods at estimated top speeds of 670 miles per hour.
In its announcement, Virgin claims a hyperloop system in the area could free up traffic on local freeways, as well as boost economic opportunities for the region.
“There is a tremendous opportunity to further connect these regional anchors and link North Carolina’s capital area with markets to the south and the northeast using a more efficient, sustainable, and reliable form of passenger and cargo transportation,” said Jay Walder, Virgin Hyperloop One CEO, in the announcement. “It’s incredibly energizing to see North Carolina and the Triangle region take this important step forward in amplifying its vision for what 21st-century transportation can be.”
To date, Virgin Hyperloop One has run a number of tests at a test track outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It also has projects in Missouri, Texas, Colorado, the Midwest, India, and the United Arab Emirates.
This isn’t the first time various regions have explored high-speed, mass transportation, only to end in failure. North Carolina, for instance, recently voted to shut down GoTriangle, a light-rail project that would have served the same region. Meanwhile, Texas Central Railway, a private railroad company, has been trying to build a high-speed rail based on Japanese bullet trains for years. While it originally planned to start construction later this year, it faced local opposition over eminent domain laws and skepticism of whether a private company can successfully operate a mass transit system. Likewise, just this year the Trump administration canceled $929 million in funding for California’s high-speed rail project.
Virgin Hyperloop One maintains its system, however, is more environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, and cost-effective than traditional maglev, and that high-speed rail trains require more expensive tracks to operate. It plans to have operational hyperloop systems in place by the mid-2020s, but we’ll have to see. After all, Americans really love their cars.