As part of a coalition exploring a way to transform travel, Black & Veatch embraced the challenge to assess the viability of something seemingly ripped from a sci-fi novel: Zipping people and cargo at hundreds of miles an hour across Missouri – in pods, through a tube. Black & Veatch spent months on that feasibility study – the first examining a “hyperloop” system in the U.S.
The conclusion: That concept by transportation technology company Virgin Hyperloop One will work.
Now for that exhaustive, independent evaluation of a possible route between St. Louis and Kansas City, Black & Veatch has a new addition to its trophy case – a coveted regional award honoring the global engineering and infrastructure solutions giant’s work to advance innovation.
As part of the latest Arcus Awards in St. Louis, Black & Veatch gratefully accepted the BMO Harris Bank St. Louis Spirit Award, given to an entity that advances an innovation, cutting-edge technology or industry best practice extending St. Louis’ history and global stature as a hub of innovation and forward-looking vision.
Arcus Awards finalists included dozens of companies, organizations, educational institutions and government agencies whose efforts were judged according to how they enhance that region’s living, working and investment environments. The honors align with the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s strategy to leverage economic strengths, stoke economic opportunity and advocate forward-thinking economic policies.
“We certainly are gratified and humbled by this recognition,” said Bently Green, a St. Louis-based Black & Veatch associate vice president. “We cherish our newfound relationship with the St. Louis Chamber, and being viewed by our metro area as someone who is being innovative and driving interest in St. Louis is wonderful.”
Evoking images of the famously futuristic travel thinking of the television’s animated series “The Jetsons,” hyperloop conceptually involves whisking passengers and cargo in pods hundreds of miles per hour through a low-pressure tube. Backers of the technology’s application in Missouri say that such a trip between Kansas City and St. Louis would take roughly a half hour, a far cry from the four hours required to drive it now. Black & Veatch, in the feasibility study released last October, deemed the project commercially plausible, given that a leading possible route – the Interstate 70 corridor linking those two regional hubs – already is flat and straight.
Working with stakeholders that included the University of Missouri system, the Missouri Department of Transportation, the St. Louis Chamber and the KC Tech Council, Black & Veatch’s report exhaustively examined the social impact, station locations, regulatory issues, route alignments and rights-of-way associated with the project.
Missouri’s storied place in risk-taking and discovery already is unmistakable, notably in travel. Missouri long has touted itself as the 1950s birthplace of the nation’s interstate highway system – then-President Eisenhower’s vision for America’s 20th-century transportation. In St. Louis, the towering Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River – famously a force in inland commerce – celebrates westward expansion and the launch point of Lewis and Clark’s exploration from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean.
“Now there’s opportunity for St. Louis to be a starting point of the future hyperloop network that cuts to just a half hour the time it takes to get from there to Kansas City – a trip that would have taken Lewis and Clark days, if not weeks,” said Drew Thompson, Black & Veatch’s director of data center and mission critical facility solutions.
“We see hyperloop as tomorrow’s freeway,” added Thompson, a project lead on the Missouri Hyperloop feasibility study. “And as a company that’s innovated in infrastructure for more than a century, working with Virgin Hyperloop One on a reimagined, revolutionary way to move people and goods was something we naturally embraced.”
Diana Zhou, Virgin Hyperloop One’s director of project strategy, said that company welcomes continued outreach about the Missouri hyperloop concept and Virgin Hyperloop’s outreach with Black & Veatch and others in the Missouri coalition.
“Everyone we’ve been working with in the state has a can-do attitude when it comes to thinking about new technologies,” she said. “We are looking forward to a great conversation about what it takes to bring the hyperloop to Missouri."
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About Black & Veatch
Black & Veatch is an employee-owned, global leader in building critical human infrastructure in Energy, Water, Telecommunications and Government Services. Since 1915, we have helped our clients improve the lives of people in over 100 countries through consulting, engineering, construction, operations and program management. Our revenues in 2018 were US$3.5 billion. Follow us on social media.