The Pennsylvania Turnpike has hired the builder of Elon Musk’s hyperloop to investigate a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh link using the new technology, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission voted to commit up to $2 million over four years to hire AECOM to explore the concept for the commonwealth. In 2016, AECOM was hired by Elon Musk to construct the first SpaceX hyperloop test track.
The study will examine whether hyperloop technology could help or hurt the turnpike’s operation, according to the newspaper report. The study will also examine regulatory and environmental concerns. A hyperloop version of the Northeast Extension will also be considered, and a separate preliminary environmental study is set to be delivered by another consultant as early as this summer.
Although it seems conceivable that the existing right-of-way could present the most advantageous route for a hyperloop, the resolution advises that the study should be done “while considering the geographical barriers to the most optimal route.” The Pennsylvania Turnpike passes through the southernmost tip of Lebanon County in the area of Lawn. The Lebanon-Lancaster Exit 266 is located just over the county-line in Lancaster County.
The turnpike and state Department of Transportation were ordered to perform the study in a resolution approved last fall by Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Lebanon County State Representatives Russ Diamond (R-102), Frank Ryan (R-101), and Sue Helm (R-104) all voted in favor of the resolution.
The project does come at a precarious time for the transportation authority, which is $11 billion in debt. According to the Penn Live report, that’s largely due to contributions required of the Turnpike Commission to fund other programs, such as public transportation. SEPTA is said to draw up to a third of its funding from Commission remittances. (This paragraph added shortly after publication to provide more context.)
Previously, The Boring Company announced plans to pursue a New York City to Washington hyperloop that would stop in Philadelphia.