West Virginia makes pitch to attract Hyperloop testing facility
From Morgantown to Washington DC in 40 minutes.
That’s what a hyperloop company says it can deliver in the future.
It’s still in the testing phase, but those future tests could be done right here in West Virginia.
That's what state leaders hope as they make their pitch to Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles-based company owned by Sir Richard Branson. It's on the hunt for a new testing facility and West Virginia is one of more than 20 who expressed interest.
"This system absolutely would transform our whole being in every way," Gov. Jim Justice said at a press conference Thursday.
He was surrounded by other senior officials from a variety of departments at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University.
"We're going to do anything and everything to make sure this is going to be your next Almost Heaven home," he told Hyperloop One representatives.
It will select a location by the middle of next year. Officials project construction to begin in the next couple of years after a location is identified.
The company is looking for a state offering financial incentives, research partnerships with local universities, and support in developing a regulatory framework, according to Director of Project Strategy Diana Zhou.
"It doesn't fit into any existing agency currently," Zhou said. "We're not rail, we're not like a highway, we're not like a plane. What are we really? Having a Department of Transportation and various transportation experts who can help guide that process at the state and federal levels is going to be extremely important to us."
Justice touted West Virginia's proximity to Washington D.C. as a benefit to the company when it comes to public policy proposals.
The company is looking for a piece of land that's six miles long. At the new certification center, it would conduct high-speed trials, research, and safety tests.
Its current test site is north of Las Vegas.
“We're working with the state of West Virginia to understand how we can partner together to make that a reality," Zhou said.
Javier Reyes, the dean of WVU's John Chambers College of Business and Economics, said there needs to be an emphasis on investing in new technologies like this.
"By creating this new type of technology, you're going to create jobs and devices that don't exist," Reyes said. "It's going to change policies, the way we do business, the way we transport people. That is like going to the moon. It's that kind of push we can have. What better place to have it than West Virginia and to have West Virginia University involved?"
Marshall University is also offering support for the project.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sent a letter to Branson and met with the leadership team of Hyperloop One in October.
“It is great to see WVU and Virgin Hyperloop One meet about the possibility of Virgin Hyperloop One building their certification and test center in West Virginia," Manchin said in a press release. "I believe that the relationship between West Virginia and Virgin Hyperloop One could be incredibly strong and that our great state has exactly what they’re looking for in a location.
"I look forward to working with WVU and Virgin Hyperloop One to advocate for this partnership and will do whatever I can to make this a reality for West Virginia."