Visualization of a Hyperloop train.

Visualization of a Hyperloop train.

Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com.

It’s sounds very sci-fi, but excitement is slowly growing about Hyperloop transportation systems, in which magnetically levitated trains carry passengers and freight inside a low-pressure tube at the speed of sound. One of the companies pushing for them is Hyperloop One, which has identified 11 routes across America where Hyperloops might be built.

By far the shortest and therefore the cheapest such route being proposed is Providence-Somerset- (to serve the Fall River area) -Boston – a 64-mile route that could take less than 10 minutes to travel. That this route is in a densely populated area whose residents are used to mass transit makes it more attractive. (By the way, Holly McNamara, aSomerset selectwoman, proposed the stop in that town.)

How much would it cost? No one really knows, but certainly several billion dollars.

Still, some engineers think that Hyperloops could be cheaper than regular high-speed rail to construct. The giant consultancy  KMPG did a study that concluded that the per-mile cost of building a Hyperloop could be more than 25 percent less expensive than building California’s planned high-speed rail to link Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Of course it all seems surreal now, but as former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said about the Hyperloop idea:

“The airplane was pie-in-the-sky, the car was pie-in-the-sky, virtually every mode of transportation we enjoy today was at one a point pie-in-the-sky idea. We have to accept that there’s a stretch here. But it’s a stretch that can yield pretty significant benefits. What surface transportation mode today can get 700 miles per hour? None. There’s a huge opportunity, we just have to be willing to do what it takes to get there.”

But, as he told Recode:  “The technology, the science behind it, is very sound, but it’s one of those examples of, the technology may be there before the government is. Will it happen some place? Absolutely, I’m sure it will. Not even sure it’s going to happen first in the U.S. to be honest, but I think there’ll be some proof points out there to show that Hyperloop is a real thing.”

Obviously, federal rail regulations would have to be dramatically changed to include 700-mph trains! But if the Hyperloop happens,  it could make Boston and Providence into one city.