A House committee heard testimony Monday about a Callaway County lawmaker's bill that may make it more likely for Missouri to land a certification and test track for a hyperloop system.
House Bill 1963, sponsored by state Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, would define a "tube transport system" as a high-speed transportation system in which pressurized pods containing passengers or freight rode upon a cushion of air through a vacuum tube.
The bill fulfills a recommendation of the Missouri Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop — to create statutory changes that make possible the public-private partnership that would be necessary to possibly land the track.
Virgin Hyperloop One, which is based in Los Angeles, announced it would be seeking requests for proposals for the track. The 15-mile track would be used for testing and validating the technology. Existing test tracks are less than a mile long — well too short for pods that run inside them to reach the estimated 700-mph speeds needed for full-scale testing.
Estimates for the cost of a full certification track are $300 million-$500 million and would require public-private partnerships to fund.
Fitzwater, who served on the Blue Ribbon Panel, said in testimony before the House of Representatives General Laws Committee on Monday that the bill simply would allow the hyperloop's tube system to be included in definitions for public-private partnerships.
"This is an opportunity for us to be a leader in transportation's future," Fitzwater said. "It is for the purposes of trying to ensure clarity. It is really needed to update some of the language."
There is a push for a hyperloop system across the state — one that would connect Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis through high-speed transportation. The panel looked at the feasibility and released a report on what would be needed to establish Missouri as the location where the emerging technology would be developed.
Virgin Hyperloop One is soon expected to solicit RFPs for a certification track. For the state to remain under consideration for the track, the panel, chaired by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, made several recommendations. In addition to resolving statutory issues, the panel recommends the University of Missouri System partner with other universities in an International Tube Transport Center of Excellence.
The report states estimates of the total cost to build a hyperloop system across Missouri range from $7.3 billion-$10.4 billion.
At the same time, Missouri would gain prestige by landing the research site and create an annual economic impact of $1.67 billion-$3.68 billion. The technology could create 7,600-17,200 new jobs.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission has authority over projects like a hyperloop, Fitzwater said.
"(The new language) is just to ensure that government can partner with an organization," he said. "A future Legislature could put money toward this project, if that's what they deem necessary. We're just kind of locking up the opportunity. We're making sure we're not losing the opportunity."
Five people testified in support of thebill Monday. Nobody testified in opposition to it.
Committee members are expected to vote on the bill today.