COLUMBIA, Mo. - The University of Missouri and its research expertise will be a key part of a panel appointed to study bringing Hyperloop transportation technology to the state.
The Hyperloop system would be a pod that looks like a train and travels at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. A public-private partnership including Virgin Hyperloop One is trying to establish Missouri as a place to install the new technology for the first time in the United States.
Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr this week introduced a blue ribbon panel that will focus on bringing a Hyperloop to Missouri. According to the panel, research done by engineering firm Black and Veatch suggests the Hyperloop could transport passengers between St. Louis and Kansas City in around 28 minutes at low cost to passengers.
Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who is part of the panel, said the University of Missouri's involvement is key to the effort to attract the project.
"The entire university system has an incredible research component to it, including the flagship university in Columbia," Kehoe said. "And from a research standpoint, to try and understand this technology, what else it can be used for, how it can be developed, etc., would be very attractive to any research university across the United States."
UM System President Mun Choi is a member of the task force working to research hyperloop technology.
Ryan Kelly, from Virgin Hyperloop One, said Missouri is the first state to release a feasibility report and to create a government panel.
Kehoe said many different departments at MU could provide insight for the panel, not just the engineering school. Likewise, involvement in the project has benefits for the school, he said.
"Opportunities like this is right up their alley to take a look at, and I think it would make that system and particularly the Columbia campus, even more attractive to students and, you know, firms that want us to do research in the future," Kehoe said.
Kelly said research from places like universities would help the technology move forward.
"Universities like that participating are essential. There's no reason why the University of Missouri System couldn't become the academic institution that creates, you know, a whole curriculum around hyperloop," he said.
Kelly also said universities could contribute by training students in topics like software engineering, welding and more.
Kehoe said research, such as that which the panel will conduct will be important for any state hoping to be chosen to house the first Hyperloop.
He said the new form of transportation may not be here in the near future, but it is still important to look forward.
"Is this something that happens in the near term? No, I'm sure it's not," he said. "But as we look at things as policymakers, I think it's also incumbent on us to see what is out there that our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren may be accessing in, you know, decades to come."
Kelly said Virgin Hyperloop One hopes to see hyperloop become a reality in years, not decades.
He said the panel is trying to plan a meeting for the end of March, and the panel could have a clearer vision of which groups will be included in the work.