The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced on Tuesday it’s partnering with Arrivo, a hyperloop-inspired transportation company based in Los Angeles, to build a full-system test track along E-470 and ultimately complete a “commercial leg” of this transportation system within the next five years. Arrivo’s technology promises high-speed travel—200 mph or faster—that can connect every part of metro Denver in less than 20 minutes.
The concept of “hyperloop” technology has been evolving over the past several years. Tesla founder Elon Musk is exploring such services with SpaceX, his space transport services company. And perhaps most notably, Hyperloop One (recently renamed Virgin Hyperloop One after an acquisition by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group) has been developing similar technology and recently selected Colorado as one of 10 potential sites where its own high-speed, terrestrial transportation system could take hold. But so far, no full-scale commercial hyperloop systems exist, and if Arrivo and CDOT produce one, it would be the first of its kind.
Precise details of how Arrivo’s system will function are unclear, as the company is still engineering much of the technology. The goal is to combat traffic congestion and “create a dedicated roadway where you can move autonomously and at very high speeds,” says Arrivo’s co-founder, Brogan BamBrogan, in a video provided by CDOT. Arrivo’s infrastructure system will involve a combination of magnetic levitation and electric propulsion to move cars, freight, and large groups of people via futuristic-looking enclosed “sleds” at speeds between 200 and 300 mph. In comparison, Hyperloop One’s system involves a vacuum-sealed tube-like structure in which passengers would move at speeds up to 700 mph. (BamBrogan was a co-founder of Hyperloop One, but resigned amidst internal issues and then founded Arrivo in February.)
While Hyperloop One’s system focuses on transporting passengers over longer distances (Denver to Chicago or Cheyenne to Pueblo, for instance), “Arrivo is really focused on super-urban travel,” says Amy Ford, CDOT’s Communications Director. According to a CDOT press release, Arrivo claims it will be able to transport passengers from Boulder to downtown Denver in eight minutes, from Lone Tree to downtown in six minutes, and from DIA to downtown in nine minutes.
In 2018, BamBrogan expects to hire 40-50 local engineers and technicians and invest $10-15 million in the test track site. Last month, through the Strategic Fund incentive, Colorado approved a grant up to $760,000 for Arrivo if the company invests $4.4 million in a new research facility and creates at least 152 new jobs with an average annual wage of $99,704, according to the Denver Post. Arrivo plans to break ground on their test track—which will be on E-470 property—in the first quarter of 2018, and expects to finish the track before the year’s end.
According to Ford, the state’s new partnership with Arrivo does not impact Hyperloop One’s independent plans in Colorado. “We’re agnostic,” she says, regarding the various brands of rapid-speed transit taking shape in the state. The state is moving forward with a rapid-speed travel study, she says, to evaluate the regulatory and environmental conditions that need to be addressed as these systems go forward. Additionally, both Arrivo and Hyperloop One are coordinating with CDOT on feasibility studies about the specifics of potential routes in Colorado.
How these new systems will integrate with Denver’s existing Regional Transportation District (RTD) infrastructure (bus, light rail) is still to be determined, according to Scott Reed, assistant general manager of communications for RTD. “Conceptually, it’s fascinating,” Reed says. “It’s very early in the process, but we’re very supportive and open to working [integration] out.”
Just for fun: Find out how long it’d take to get from points A to B of your choice with Hyperloop One’s nifty route estimator.