Futuristic modes of transport promising to cut travel times between major cities to minutes could be one step closer to reality under the recently enacted infrastructure law.
The companies backing a magnetic levitation train that would offer hour-long trips between New York City and Washington, DC, as well as a hyperloop connecting Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh, plan to seek funding under the Law of 1, $ 2 trillion.
âBuilding our hyperloop system in the United States just got a lot easier,â said AndrÃ©s de LeÃ³n, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
The Infrastructure Law (Public Law 117-58) makes maglev and hyperloop technology eligible for several programs. Although it is up to government agencies to allocate these funds, leaders of innovative technologies are optimistic that the administration will support them as climate-friendly means of transport.
Maglev technology uses magnets to elevate trains and propel them forward at high speed, while hyperloop carries passengers in capsules through low pressure tubes. Several companies are planning projects using these high-speed technologies, including Virgin Hyperloop and Elon musk‘s Boring Co.
The technologies may also be eligible for funding under Democrats’ tax and social spending laws (HR 5376), including through a $ 3 billion loan program that would be open to hyperloops. The House passed the bill last week, and it is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
“Viable option today”
The Infrastructure Act gives “innovative rail projects” the opportunity to apply for grants from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, while making the hyperloop eligible for loans from an advanced vehicle program from the Department of Energy. . The Maglev and hyperloop projects can also benefit from subsidies for intermodal connections that would help them to connect to the existing transport network.
âMentioning it by name sends a signal that we wanted this included,â said Wayne Rogers, president and CEO of Northeast Maglev LLC.
HyperloopTT’s De LeÃ³n called the infrastructure law a âvery important stepâ that level the playing field and allows hyperloop to compete with any other mode of transport. Congressional recognition shows that hyperloop is “a viable option today, not in the future, not in a few years, but today our technology is ready,” he said.
The Federal Railroad Administration completed a preliminary review of the initial Baltimore to Washington, DC portion of the Northeast Maglev project in January. Rogers said FRA is reviewing the comments to determine next steps, but hopes the environmental impact statement will be released in 2022, while it works to secure the permits.
HyperloopTT has discussed several potential developments in the United States, but its Great Lakes Hyperloop project, which would link Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh with travel times of around half an hour, is the most advanced. The company has finalized the feasibility study for the project and is moving on to the environmental study, said de LeÃ³n.
Federal funds could help finance activities such as feasibility studies, pre-construction activities and even project construction, de LeÃ³n said.
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High price tags
Biden administration officials have spoken of diversifying transportation systems and finding more climate-friendly options. The Department of Transportation has started funding more high-speed trains, such as a line in California that lost federal funding under the Trump administration.
The California project has been criticized by lawmakers over rising costs and multi-year planning and construction delays – challenges that could also face emerging transportation technologies, which are largely funded by the industry. private.
The capital costs of the Great Lakes Hyperloop are estimated at $ 25.4 billion. Early estimates put the cost of the Baltimore-Washington portion of the Maglev project at over $ 10 billion.
Rogers of Maglev said the federal funding could lower the eventual price of the tickets by lowering the overall cost of the project.
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Some fear that the project may draw funds from other forms of transport. Two local Maryland delegates, Democrats Nicole Williams and Jared Solomon, wrote earlier this year that the Baltimore-Washington maglev project could “negatively impact investment and improved public transportation” that currently serves the region .
Lawmakers have supported several companies developing hyperloop technology.
representing Tim ryan (D-Ohio), which backed the Great Lakes project, said the infrastructure law “will cement the future of hyperloop travel.”
“This revolutionary technology will be revolutionary for Ohio and the country as a whole – opening the door to more employment opportunities, higher economic growth in our cities, less time in the traffic, more chances of seeing jobs. loved ones, and so much more, âRyan said in a statement.
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Meanwhile, Virgin Hyperloop announced that it would locate its certification center and test track in West Virginia last year, a move welcomed by both state senators, Joe manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R), who was instrumental in negotiating and drafting parts of the law. Capito then declared that he “will support the future of transport”. Manchin particularly pushed the company to locate in West Virginia.
Virgin Hyperloop said it was unlikely the company would directly apply for infrastructure law funding, but would be hired by a public entity or state requesting funding for a project and that there have a few working there.
“We are grateful for the support of Congress and the Biden administration for hyperloop technology, which can help usher in a new era of transportation and create a greener future,” said Dennis Reinhold, general counsel at Virgin Hyperloop, in an email.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna byington in Washington at [email protected]