Colorado is America’s Hyperloop Winner

There’s great news for Hyperloop fans in my home state of Colorado. A route that links several of Colorado’s cities has been chosen as the US frontrunner in Hyperloop One Global Challenge.

That winner is the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop which plans a mainline running along the Front Range in Colorado and Southern, Wyoming. This line is an interesting but questionable one because it bypasses much of the Front Range’s population.

It bypasses Downtown Denver by running along E-470 between the Park Meadows Shopping Center and Denver International Airport (DIA). Then follows U.S. Highway 85 North to Cheyenne; effectively bypassing Denver’s Northern Suburbs, Boulder, Longmont, and Loveland. There is a short run between US Highway 85 and Fort Collins. To the south, the line follows I-25 straight South to Pueblo going right through downtown Colorado Springs.

Why Does Hyperloop Winner bypass Most of Colorado’s Population?

A more practical route that would serve a lot more people would follow I-25 between Denver and Cheyenne or the Boulder Turnpike (US Highway 36), The Diagonal Highway (118) and US Highway 287. To the south, it might follow Interstate 25 or the railroad tracks through Denver.

Such routes would take the Hyperloop through population centers such as Highlands Ranch, Englewood, Downtown Denver, Westminster, Broomfield, Boulder, Longmont, Loveland and Fort Collins. That would serve most of Colorado’s population which is bypassed by this plan. To be fair it must be noted that the route will go through Colorado’s second largest city Aurora which strangely does not appear on the Hyperloop One Map.

Instead, it looks as if the new route will run mostly through empty farmland Northeast of Denver. To the North it runs through Greeley which is large; 103,990 people, but what about the 108,090 people in Boulder, 92,858 persons in Longmont, and the 76,897 that live in Loveland. Wouldn’t it make more sense to run Hyperloop where the people are?

Rocky Mountain Hyperloop sounds more like a real estate scheme promoted by somebody who owns property Northeast of Denver and in Pueblo rather than a transportation solution. One has to wonder if the Hyperloop One team has ever been anywhere in Colorado except Vail or done any research.

Such doubts grow when one examines Rocky Mountain Hyperloop’s other proposed line which runs from the Denver Tech Center (roughly Park Meadows Shopping Center) to Vail along C-470 and I-70. This route is pretty dumb because it would go through Clear Creek Canyon; where there’s little room. and necessitate the digging of an expensive tunnel under Loveland Pass.

Some Better Colorado Hyperloop Routes

Better routes would follow U.S. 285 from Denver to Buena Vista, U.S. 24 from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista, or U.S. 50 from Pueblo to Salida and US 24 from Salida to Minturn and Vail. There’s already a rail tunnel under Tennessee Pass between Leadville and Minturn that is not being used.

Some of the other routes would be easier to build up, there are a disused rail line and tunnel between Canon City and Minturn that Hyperloop can easily use. The route between Buena Vista and Colorado Springs is fairly flat and easy to build upon with the exception of a short route between Manitou Springs and Woodland Park.

I know this because I live here and I’ve actually driven those routes. Memo to Hyperloop One executives: have somebody fly to Denver, rent a car and drive some of those routes.

A better route between Denver and Vail would follow the Moffatt Tunnel rail line. That would take advantage of an existing tunnel, owned by the State of Colorado, and possibly serve two other major ski areas, Winter Park and Steamboat Springs. It would also bypass the congested I-70 corridor.

Another problem I see with the routes Rocky Mountain Hyperloop has proposed is that they seem to be routed towards Denver International Airport and ignore the Colorado Springs Airport. One reason for this is to keep airlines from moving to the Springs Airport, which is much closer to the ski areas than DIA.

Is Rocky Mountain Hyperloop Sustainable?

Despite these gripes, the routes mentioned have a lot to commend. Most of the real estate development in Denver is to the Southeast along E-470 or the Southwest along C-470 which these lines follow.

There’s also lots of growth north of Denver along U.S. 85 and I-25, and quite a bit to the South; especially around Castle Rock between Denver and “the Springs.” So these lines are designed to serve today’s Colorado.

Although I have to wonder if this proposal is not ambitious enough. Why stop at Pueblo when going south; why not continue onto Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, El Paso, and Ciudad Juarez? Those cities are all due South of Pueblo on Interstate 25.

Going West why not continue onto Grand Junction; which has an airport, or better yet Interstate 15 in Utah. From there the line can be extended to Las Vegas, Barstow, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego.

More Hyperloop Ambition Needed

Perhaps Hyperloop One needs a dose of Elon Musk’s ambition. Lines running merely between Denver and Vail, or Cheyenne and Pueblo might not pay for them. There definitely would not be enough freight revenue to sustain the system Rocky Mountain Hyperloop has planned and passenger revenue would be questionable.

Longer lines might attract enough freight and passengers to pay for themselves. Another interesting point here, is why not extend a Hyperloop from Winter Park or Kremling north to Steamboat Springs? That might generate some serious business from the coal mines in that area.

Hopefully, this is just a preliminary plan, because it looks as if the Rocky Mountain Hyperloop will be expensive and unsustainable. That’s the last thing this transportation system needs, Hyperloop One needs to reexamine and rethink its methodology. Better planned and more ambitious routes will be needed to make Hyperloop a reality.