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Texas hyperloop bullet train closer to reality, Austin may be a stop

DALLAS (KXAN) — A bullet train project that zips passengers from Dallas to Fort Worth is closer to reality. The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council unveiled plans Wednesday morning to explore cutting-edge hyperloop technology.

The state is considering two bullet train projects that will be connected. Austin may be a stop in the future. 

Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that allows trains to travel at very high speeds, up to 700 miles per hour non-stop. Scientists calculate a six-minute commute between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Hyperloop One and a transportation authority launched a feasibility study to bring a DFW idea down through Austin. 

"You have to go through certain steps in building infrastructure projects. So the first part for Austin is already starting," said the company's head of North American Projects, Dan Katz.

He says they hope to have the North Texas leg operational by the early 2020s and thinks the rest could be a public-private partnership, built in part within the current highway structure, which would be much easier than buying up private land to build on. 

"Highways were built in the 1950s for 1950s technology and to really advance you have to think about these highways as multi-modal, many different types of transportation on this right of way," said Katz.

Scientists backed by Virgin's Richard Branson are currently testing hyperloop technology on a full-scale track in the Nevada Desert.

It is not clear how much the project would cost or who would pay for it.

After Wednesday's announcement, the next steps would include the RTC putting out a request later this year asking for a consultant team to complete the impact study. The bullet train would be the nation's first if it is approved.

Major Hurdles

Christian Claudel, the faculty advisor for UT's Hyperloop team says "there is a huge difference between something that is on a piece of paper and something that has been tested."

Claudel says it'll probably take longer than expected due to three major hurdles: finding funding through governments or private investors, making it safe for passengers, then convincing the public it is safe.

He thinks they'd start with moving freight first, before moving people. "If you have an accident on a freight capsule it's not a real big issue," said Claudel.

However, Claudel does believe hyperloops will be a key part in the transportation networks of the future. 

Last year, the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council (RTC) asked the state for permission to study the environmental and economic impact of a bullet train. The RTC will also look at a second project that goes from Fort Worth to Laredo. That route could include stops in Waco, Austin and San Antonio. Houston is also on the list to eventually get a stop if it's approved.


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