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Our Opinion: We're hyped about hyperloop, but at what cost?

Our Opinion: We're hyped about hyperloop, but at what cost?

March 29th, 2019 in Opinion

In this photo provided by Hyperloop One, the company's test track is seen in the Nevada desert.

We love the idea of a hyperloop — a next-gen propulsion system that could whisk you from Kansas City to St. Louis in a giant vacuum tube — all in less than the time it would take you watch an episode of "Star Trek" on Netflix.

The idea is fascinating, and it's not a futuristic dream; the technology is available now.

What we don't like is the $7 billion to $10 billion price tag, particularly if we're talking about publicly funding a portion of it.

The inaugural meeting of the "Blue Ribbon Panel on Hyperloop" took place Monday. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe chairs the 29-member group that will tell House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, this fall whether it's a feasible idea to get involved.

The fact that the Missouri Department of Transportation, University of Missouri and a government panel are involved in discussions suggests the government would be involved, meaning your tax money.

Our take: Spending limited government resources to study the issue is money well spent. But, as taxpayers, we have questions, and we're far from ready to committing to such a project.

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Just a few of the questions that would have to be answered include:

What would the financial arrangement be? Would it be a public-private project? How would the cost be split, and how would control of the system be determined?

What would the per-trip cost be to travelers, and what would the true cost be once taxpayer funds are added?

Who would be the primary users of such transportation? Would it be business travelers and businesses transporting products/raw materials? Would the practical for the average person/family to use such a system, considering Mid-Missourians can drive to either Kansas City or St. Louis for $30 or so on gas.

The project is fascinating, but it has the potential to be a huge public commitment like Amtrak. This, at a time when our state is struggling to maintain the roads it has already created.

Kehoe said the state should be doing better with the current highway system and looking to the future. We, too, believe this needs to be a priority.

We ask government entities involved in studying the hyperloop to proceed with caution on anything that would commit our state to another form of public transportation, especially one with a magnitude as large as this.

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