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Sunday, April 11, 2021

North Texas making strong push for Virgin Hyperloop center

North Texas is going all-in for hyperloop, as the region hopes to become a frontrunner at incorporating the groundbreaking transportation technology.

Virgin Hyperloop One assures it can transport commuters and cargos at speeds up to 670 miles per hour.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) wants Virgin Hyperloop One to bring that technology to and build its first-ever Certification Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

For that, NCTCOG is submitting a proposal to the Los Angeles-based company, which is backed by billionaire investor Richard Branson.

Virgin Hyperloop One is looking for a host site to develop a center to test and validate its futuristic hyperloop technology and operations in the U.S.

About two dozen governmental entities are believed to be fighting and submitting proposals to build the center by the Dec. 13 deadline.

NCTCOG is submitting the only proposal from Texas and has high chances for selection, NCTCOG Director of Transportation Michael Morris said.

“We’ll be shortlisted. We’ve worked with them for two or three years,” Morriss told the Business Press. “I couldn’t imagine us not making it unless we totally misunderstand their proposal.”

Virgin Hyperloop said it expects the center would be funded through public and private sources.

In its proposal, NCTCOG provides four different funding options to choose from, ranging from private businesses to tax-payer backed initiatives. However, Virgin Hyperloop One is yet to disclose any cost estimation on the facility.

It also presents eight corridors where an actual hyperloop track can be installed – which includes parts in Tarrant and Dallas counties, as well as near DFW Airport.

Morris said the metroplex has got everything a company trying to showcase a new technology is looking for.

“Good working environment, good and reasonable housing costs, great universities, centrally located, great access,” Morris said. “Why DFW? Because it’s a good place.”

The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council last year announced it is considering hyperloop technology at two potential corridors – Dallas to Fort Worth, through Arlington; and Fort Worth to Laredo, through Austin.

Virgin Hyperloop One estimates it can shorten travel time from Fort Worth to Laredo to 47 minutes. As an example, if one million passengers traveled the route in hyperloop instead of driving, it could save them about 2.4 million hours, or 279 years.

“Who should be focused on innovative logistics and technologies? It should be us,” Morris said. “I think we owe it to the rest of the country to be a leader in technology.”

Hyperloop propels transport pods via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube. The carrying vehicle glides above the track using magnetic levitation. The system is autonomous and emits no carbon.

Depending on regulatory and statutory processes, Virgin Hyperloop One plans to have operational systems in place in the next 5 to 7 years.

Virgin Hyperloop One has divided the site selection process for its Certification Center into four different phrases. After the selection, the company has said it will begin construction of the facility by 2021.

In November, Virgin Hyperloop One released a request for regions, local or state entities to submit proposals asking to build a center.

Within days of Virgin’s announcement, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin sent a letter to Branson, promoting his state as a suitable site to build the proposed certification and test center.

“[I’m] convinced that this is a giant leap forward into the future of transportation, an engine that will change the way we travel and transform the national landscape,” Manchin wrote. “I am just as convinced that my state of West Virginia is the partner you are seeking to make this a reality.”

Competitions might be tough as proposals will be coming in from across the U.S. And, NCTCOG is prepared to battle it out.

NCTCOG is coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation in the hyperloop project. It is also seeking partnerships with local universities to study and assist in the process.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” Morris said. “We’re working hard all the way to the end when we submit to them [Virgin]. My goal is to get to the next phase.”

Many North Texans already caught a glimpse of the future when Virgin Hyperloop One brought its XP-1 pod to AT&T Stadium earlier this year, as a part of a traveling exhibit.

Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) has constructed a half-a-mile, full-scale test track in North Las Vegas, where the world’s first hyperloop manufacturing plant was also built-in 2016.

A hyperloop track is expected to open from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 2020. India also announced earlier this year its plans to work toward and complete its hyperloop route connecting Mumbai to Pune.

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Neetish Basnet
Neetish is a writer and digital content producer for Fort Worth Business Press. He has been covering businesses of all shapes and sizes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex for several years. After graduating with a journalism degree from University of Texas-Arlington, Dow Jones News Fund selected him for a digital media fellowship. He still likes the smell of a freshly printed newspaper.

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