Hyperloop Expected to Cost Far More than Originally Stated
This shouldn’t come as any surprise, but the latest financial disclosure documents show that the estimated cost of the Hyperloop has soared. It’s further indication this thing is not ready for prime time and surely is not any kind of substitute for high speed rail:
In his 2013 paper that set the tech world abuzz with the promise of high-speed travel via vacuum tubes, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk projected a Hyperloop route from Los Angeles to the Bay Area would cost as little as $6 billion, or $11.5 million per mile, far less than the cost of high-speed rail. But Hyperloop One estimates for many projects are significantly higher, based on a promotional document for potential investors and real estate developers updated in July and in circulation this October, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the company. At the top of the range: a 107-mile loop around the Bay Area alone—either by tunnel or a mix of tunnel and elevated track—would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion, or between $84 million and $121 million per mile.
The article notes that current estimates for California high speed rail are $123 million per mile, so this cost for the Hyperloop is now approaching or already at the CA HSR cost projection.
Another interesting tidbit is Hyperloop advocates now recognize that, as this blog has been saying for years, the obstacles to connecting LA and SF with fast trains are political:
Nowhere is Musk’s Los Angeles to San Francisco corridor mentioned. Asked whether Musk was overly optimistic with his initial projections, Lloyd replied, “I have a huge amount of respect for Elon Musk.” He said Hyperloop One isn’t interested in that route for the near term due to a “very complicated political environment.” “We do think the first routes, in the next three to four years, will be shorter and will be in important corridors.”
When Musk first unveiled the Hyperloop, he and the media both sold it as better than HSR, assuming that the problems the CHSRA faces were of their own making. But now it’s clear that they were not. Building an intercity rail project in California is an inherently expensive undertaking that is made more challenging by persistent anti-rail bias on the part of some local elected officials and by most in the media.
I won’t gloat at seeing the Hyperloop experience the same challenges. This just goes to show the problems that do exist are not made by the CHSRA nor are they inherent to HSR. We need to make it much easier to build rail in this country, and we need to find ways to overcome the backward-looking folks who continue to deny the need to build more rail.