Colorado drivers may be the first to escape traffic thanks to a new partnership between state officials and a Los Angeles-based hyperloop tech company.
Arrivo founder Brogan BamBrogan joined Colorado transportation officials in Denver Tuesday to announce a partnership to create a network of roadside tubes at the congested heart of the city that promises to whisk drivers and their cars to their destinations at speeds of up to 200 mph.
The public-private players include Arrivo, the Colorado Department of Transportation and E-470 Public Highway Authority, which operates a 75-mile, user-financed toll road running along the eastern perimeter of the city. The Arrivo test site will be near E-470 and groundbreaking is slated for early 2018.
BamBrogan says Arrivo's first commercial system could be ready in 2021 depending on funding, regulatory and public-perception hurdles.
By way of pitching the Arrivo system, Colorado DOT officials speculated the network of tubes filled with high-speed trays to carry cars could cut a one-hour and ten minute drive from downtown to the airport to a 9-minute Arrivo ride. A one-hour slog down the state's busy Boulder-to-Denver highway corridor would take 8 minutes.
"We're the tech partner in what would be a big partnership involving lawmakers, real estate people and others, but our job is to show that we can help provide a positive ROI (return on investment)," BamBrogam told USA TODAY. "Traffic is something people are very eager to solve."
BamBrogan said the idea is to use existing highway right-of-ways to install above-ground tubes to help commuters cheat traffic by granting them express trips in their own cars to popular destinations.
Why not just build a train? "I have a young son, and my car is filled with everything I need for him so not taking my car often isn't a great option," he said.
Arrivo's system is notably different from the more sci-fi version of hyperloop, the name Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave to the transportation system in a white paper he wrote in 2013.
That vision, one pursued by Arrivo-rival Hyperloop One, involves above- or below-ground vacuum-sealed tubes inside which magnetically levitated pods can travel at up to 700 mph.
These hyperloop systems are aimed at covering hundreds of miles in short time frames, such as turning a 6-hour Los Angeles-to-San Francisco trek into a 30-minute hyperloop scoot.
BamBrogan said that his new company, which took root last summer east of downtown L.A., is for the moment focused on "regional and super-regional solutions, which is typically a lower pressure environment" when it comes to logistics.
"Denver was a natural fit, since the place is urbanizing fast and there is a need for a traffic solution," he said.
The company plans to hire 40 to 50 people in Denver next year as it puts between $10 and $15 million into its test track site and open a new Engineering and Technology Center in the Denver area.
Since dreaming up hyperloop, Musk has launched The Boring Company in order to start drilling tunnels for his own alternate transportation system. Maryland has said it welcomes Musk's drills, although Musk has yet to confirm the plan.
BamBrogan spent part of his engineering career helping Musk build his rocket company SpaceX. He later joined Uber investor and Musk friend Shervin Peshivar in cofounding Hyperloop One, which he left after an acrimonious series of lawsuits.
Now called Virgin Hyperloop One, that company is building a test track near Las Vegas, and has feasibility studies underway in Russia and the Middle East. The company recently announced that Colorado was among 10 finalists of a competition aimed at finding the best place to launch its debut U.S. project.
That Colorado project would transport people or freight in pods at up to the speed of sound, and stretch across the entire state from north to south and west to its fabled ski resorts.
Arrivo's venture aims to help commuters more than long-distance travelers.
"Our issue is a familiar one. We have infrastructure that was designed in the 1950s, built in the '60s and planned for a population of the '80s that already doubled since then," said Shailen Bhatt, the executive director of the state's Department of Transportation,
Although Colorado's growth slowed slightly last year, the state has been among the nation's fastest growing in recent years, adding around 100,000 new residents annually.
Bhatt said that Arrivo will be able not only link motorists with key destinations such as the airport, city center or the region's technology hub in Boulder, but also take 80% of the tractor-trailers that travel north through Denver off Interstate-25 by putting them onto an Arrivo link that bypasses the city.
"Our philosophy is whether it's public transit, light rail, connected vehicles or a hyperloop type system, we want it all," he said.
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