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If someone said that passengers and freight could someday be transported from Denver to Vail in nine minutes, or Denver to Boulder in five minutes, you might think they were a little loopy. However, this seemingly far-fetched idea might become a reality in the Centennial State. Hyperloop One, a company developing an innovative and highly technical subway-esque tube system, recently selected Colorado as one of 10 sites worldwide where this high-speed, terrestrial transportation technology could take hold.
Using a complex combination of electric propulsion and magnetic levitation, the Hyperloop One would propel a cabin filled with passengers or freight through an above ground, tube-like structure at speeds up to 600 miles per hour. Confused? This video might help explain the process.
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Based in Los Angeles with campuses in Nevada, London, and Dubai, Hyperloop One was founded in 2014 and now employs over 280 people. But they’re not alone in their pursuit. The futuristic technology has also sparked the interest of Tesla founder Elon Musk, who for the past several years has been exploring Hyperloop services with SpaceX, the space transport services company he also founded.
As of now, a fully functional Hyperloop system is yet to exist, but Hyperloop One did break ground in Apex, Nevada in 2016 to develop a full-scale test track. Now, based on the results of a recent global competition, this technology might be making its way to Colorado—but at no small price: an estimated $24 billion.
“It’s a really new technology, so it can be hard to understand,” says Blake Anneberg, a Colorado native and the founder of Colorado Hyperloop, a group of volunteers dedicated to making Hyperloop One a reality in the Centennial State. “[Hyperloop One] is about connection and going beyond the limits of space and time.”
Anneberg, who submitted one of Colorado’s proposals to the Hyperloop One’s Global Challenge in May of 2016, attributes the state’s geography—cities that run on a generally straight line north to south—along with the (mostly) flat and open landscape of the Front Range, to Colorado’s selection as a Global Challenge winner. Over 2,600 proposals were submitted from across the globe, but only 35 were selected for consideration as a viable potential site. It was announced in April of 2017 that Colorado had been chosen as a finalist for potential Hyperloop One construction, and on September 14 the Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo route was announced as one of 10 worldwide winners, and one of only four located in the U.S. Other winners in the States include a route spanning from Chicago to Pittsburg, Dallas to Houston, and Miami to Orlando. For the proposed Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo route, stops would be made in Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder, Denver International Airport, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, the Denver Tech Center, West Metro Denver, Silverthorne, Dillon, and Vail.
According to a Hyperloop One press release, it will now “work closely with each winning team to validate and analyze their proposals further, and provide initial ridership forecasts, business case and preliminary technical analysis of the route and corridor, tailored to the needs of the individual route.”
For a project like this, several years of research, financing, approval, and heavy construction, must ensue before anything tangible happens. But, once and if it does, the state’s proposal for the Hyperloop One stated that they predict over $2 billion in annual revenue from the technology, which could be crucial to Colorado’s economy.
“I think Colorado is a naturally innovative state,” Anneberg says. “We are full of trailblazers. People from Colorado are always willing to work hard and try new things and make connections. We dream big.”
So, what happens next? As of now, it’s unclear when construction of the Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo line would begin. However, Hyperloop One has stated that they would like to see three of their systems in place by 2021.
“This is really exciting because it’s still so new,” Anneberg says. “It will take time to develop, yes, but I think it’s great that Colorado is at the forefront of this technology.”