West Virginia site chosen for Virgin high-speed travel facility

Tech

FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2018 file photo, Richard Branson appears at a ceremony honoring him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in Los Angeles. Virgin Hyperloop One will build a certification center in West Virginia to test the high-speed transportation concept that uses enclosed pods to zip passengers underground at over 600 mph (966 kph). The company had received bids from 17 states in 2020 to build a 6-mile testing track and other facilities over hundreds of acres for its electromagnetic levitation transportation technology. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Virgin Hyperloop One will build a certification center in West Virginia for the high-speed transportation concept that uses enclosed pods to zip passengers underground at over 600 mph.

The company had received bids from 17 states over the past year to build a 6-mile testing track and other safety facilities over hundreds of acres for the electromagnetic levitation transportation technology.

Hyperloop technology, which Tesla founder Elon Musk is also developing, hopes to one day provide clean-energy fast travel across the country. Virgin is studying building a route that would link Chicago and Pittsburgh in under an hour. Certification for commercial travel is still expected to be years away.

West Virginia officials said the new center will bring “thousands” of jobs to a state that has witnessed economic decline with the downturn of the coal industry.

“What we’re doing is bringing a new industry straight to the place where West Virginians once mined,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One, at an announcement with the governor and state’s U.S. senators.

The center will be located over 800 acres in Tucker and Grant counties in the northeast of the state. Construction is planned to begin in 2021 on an assembly facility for pods, safety centers and other operations.

Virgin will partner with Marshall University and West Virginia University, which predicted the center will add $48 million annually to the state’s economy.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has aimed to support the nascent technology with new grants for companies such as Virgin. Hyperloop systems rely on low-pressurized tunnels to ensure pods can transport passengers and goods at high speeds.

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