MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has been signed into law and is expected to offer funding opportunities for the proposed Virgin Hyperloop One project in West Virginia.
Executive Director of Vantage Ventures at WVU Sarah Biller said they will compete for infrastructure money with traditional rail services as an “emerging technology.”
Hyperloop technology would transport people or cargo in pods at more than 600-miles-per-hour.
A $500 million hyperloop certification center was proposed to be built on 800 acres in Grant and Tucker Counties in October of 2020. The online announcement was made by Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and John Chambers, a West Virginia native and former chairman of Cisco Systems and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
“Whether it’s through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement program (CRISI) $5 billion allocated to it,” Biller said. “Or the Federal Rail Administration where we see $56 billion in funding.”
Biller said work is underway now to prepare the first of what will be many grant applications.
“As early as this Friday we’ll submit a grant that will enable the baseline funding and anchor our private partners to us,” Biller said. “To begin seeing West Virginia as a place where advanced surface transportation has a home.”
The technology was successfully tested with passengers in a 500-meter vacuum tube outside Las Vegas in November of 2020. Company officials said the technology would reduce travel time between New York and Washington D.C. to about 30 minutes.
Biller said their first grant application will show the important role hyperloop technology could play in the supply chain.
“The use of a hyperloop system to more efficiently move perishable goods and most importantly that would be food,” Biller said. “We do that because we see West Virginia has a role in closing the food insecurity gap ion the country.”
West Virginia was initially selected from 17 other possible sites. At the time, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One noted the partnerships created to develop the presentation that ultimately brought the center to West Virginia.
“We think we have a significant leg up because of the way the state- from our public partners, our private sector and academic sector came together around hyperloop, but we still have to compete,” Biller said.
The certification center includes a five mile test track that develop standards for speed, turns and elevation changes. The site will also include an operations, maintenance and safety training center. The project and certification center is expected to create thousand s of jobs and provide $48 million annual economic impact when completed.
“A new form of efficiency in a way that also reduces the carbon footprint of transportation,” Biller said. “And also, helps us advance other innovations in adjacent industry.”
The project will also present advanced learning opportunities for students at WVU and Marshall University.