Hyperloop Names Denver Route a Winner, Announces CDOT Partnership

An artist's rendering of the Hyperloop One system.
An artist's rendering of the Hyperloop One system. Courtesy of Hyperloop
Moments ago, after months of anticipation, Hyperloop One, whose high-tech tube transportation concept is central to a firm affiliated with billionaire Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors and SolarCity fame, has named the ten winners of its Hyperloop One Global Challenge, a contest intended to "identify the strongest new Hyperloop routes in the world." And not only did the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop proposal make the grade, but Hyperloop One has announced that it will enter into a public-private partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation to launch a feasibility study here.

We first told you about Hyperloop in August 2013, describing the proposed system as a "large-scale variation on pneumatic tubes used at banks" that was said to "hold the potential of transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in thirty minutes."

How is it supposed to work? "Passengers and cargo are loaded into a pod, and accelerate gradually via electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube," the company maintains. "The pod quickly lifts above the track using magnetic levitation and glides at airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag."

This past January, in a post headlined "Is High-Tech Hyperloop the Solution to I-25 Traffic Jams? CDOT Hopes So," we took a longer look at the pros and cons of the idea after a CDOT plan was named one of 35 semi-finalists (out of 2,600 submissions) in the aforementioned global challenge. Department spokeswoman Amy Ford was enthusiastic about the notion, telling us that "we want to explore potential technologies and how they can transform transportation, and something like Hyperloop is on the leading edge of that. We think we have the program and the organizational nimbleness to be forward-thinking when it comes to technologies like this, and we hope that will help us — because this has the capacity to create an entirely new infrastructure. It's transformative."

An artist's rendering of the Hyperloop One system. - COURTESY OF HYPERLOOP
An artist's rendering of the Hyperloop One system.
Courtesy of Hyperloop
Not everyone agrees, with one of the most notable naysayers being Dr. Phil Mason, a former Cornell University chemist. An article in The Daily Caller, a conservative website co-founded by Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, divided Mason's objections to Hyperloop One into five main categories:

1: If Anything Goes Wrong, Everybody Dies

2: It's Probably Physically Impossible To Build The Hyperloop

3: Heat Would Destroy The Hyperloop’s Track

4: Hyperloop Would Be Incredibly Vulnerable To Terrorism

5: The Hyperloop Will Probably Cost WAY More Than Its Formal Estimates
Such concerns weren't enough to dissuade Ford, however. "We obviously want to explore a technology that has the incredibly exciting promise of being a brand-new infrastructure," she told us.

The following April, Ford was just as enthusiastic about word that three Colorado-related proposals were among eleven U.S. finalists in the challenge — and the one that made the final cut is Rocky Mountain Hyperloop, which foresees a route stretching from Cheyenne to Pueblo and traveling through the Denver metro area on its main track, with an offshoot projecting into the mountain corridor, as seen in the graphic above.

A second Hyperloop graphic depicts the time savings passengers and goods traveling between Denver and Colorado Springs would achieve in comparison with other forms of transportation....

click to enlarge COURTESY OF HYPERLOOP
Courtesy of Hyperloop
...and a third details all the winners.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF HYPERLOOP
Courtesy of Hyperloop
Just because Rocky Mountain Hyperloop made this roster doesn't mean construction on it will begin anytime soon. "Hyperloop One will commit meaningful business and engineering resources and work closely with each of the winning teams/routes to determine their commercial viability," a company release notes.

In regard to the partnership between Hyperloop One and CDOT, their joint study will examine "transportation demand, economic benefits, proposed routes and potential strategies, regulatory environments and alignment with overall CDOT high-speed travel, rail and freight plans."

Details about what that entails are expected to be revealed in the coming days. But it will take a lot longer than that to determine if CDOT made a smart bet on Hyperloop, or if the idea of traveling by tube goes down as a boondoggle on the way to transportation's next stage.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts