Hyperloop faster, cheaper than speeding bullet train?

Bullet train, schmullet train.

California’s planned $68 billion high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco could travel up to 220 mph and carry passengers between the two cities in less than two hours.

It would be the fastest train in North America, exceeding the 150-mph Amtrak Acela train on the Eastern Seaboard.

Compared to the Hyperloop, however, it’s a ‘72 Volkswagen bug. And an overpriced one at that.

That’s the opinion of Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and the Tesla Motors electric car company, who says he has a better idea.

The Hyperloop would whisk passengers through tubes on an air-based suspension system between the two cities, more than 350 miles, in 35 minutes.

That’s about 700 mph — nearly the speed of sound, and faster than most commercial airliners.

It would be more than twice as quick as the current fastest passenger train in the world, China’s Shanghai Maglev. The magnetic levitation train been recorded at a top speed of 311 mph, with an operating speed of 268 mph, according to multiple sources.

Musk says Hyperloop could be built for $4 billion, roughly 6 percent of the cost of the California system.

Work on the bullet train was originally planned to begin in 2012, but setbacks have pushed groundbreaking at least into later this year and possibly 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other than a 58-page manifesto, Musk isn’t putting his idea into production, at least for now. He’s leaving that to anyone willing to take on the project.

It’s certainly food for thought.

Ron Martinez of Lynnwood writes: I live in unincorporated Lynnwood on Filbert Road, which becomes 196th Street SW in Lynnwood. My concern is the intersection of Larch Way and Filbert Road (Highway 524). It is a three-way intersection because Larch Way ends at that intersection. There needs to be a traffic light at that crossing for several reasons.

As traffic has increased on Filbert Road, especially during the morning and evening rush hours, it has become virtually impossible to make a left turn onto Filbert Road from Larch Way. Even making a right turn onto Filbert Road is difficult because of the volume of traffic. There is considerable danger for vehicles attempting to make a left turn onto Filbert from Larch Way. I am not sure why the county has not put a light there by now, as it sure needs one.

As more and more housing gets built in this area, this problem is only going to get worse as the traffic increases. There was a project to add a turn lane on Filbert Road from 124th to Bothell-Everett Highway. Bothell has taken care of their portion of the project, but the remainder of the project has run out of money, it appears.

Travis Phelps, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: The section of Filbert Road between Lynnwood and Bothell was originally proposed by Snohomish County to be widened to two through lanes in each direction, including turn lanes and traffic signals.

The widening of Filbert Road (Highway 524) from 24th Avenue W. to Royal Anne Road (near Bothell-Everett Highway) was included in a 2007 tax measure for roads and public transportation that was rejected by voters.

At the time the cost estimate was $94 million. Since then, the city of Bothell widened Highway 524 between their west city limits and Highway 527 (Bothell-Everett Highway).

We’ve looked at smaller projects such as widening Highway 524 at Larch Way for an eastbound left turn lane, and extending the sidewalk along the north side of Highway 524 from Lynnwood east city limits to approximately 196th Place SW. The cost estimate for the left turn lane at Larch Way is $3 million in 2010 dollars. However, we do not have a funding source for this work.

However, we continue to look for low-cost improvements to reduce the risk of collisions and keep traffic moving along Filbert Road. A traffic light is one possibility.

In July, we installed an active warning sign system at the intersection with Larch Road. This system includes a sign with flashing lights and vehicle detection devices on eastbound Highway 524 approaching Larch Way. When the system detects eastbound vehicles slowing and stopped because of a driver waiting to turn left at Larch Way, the flashing lights will be activated to warn eastbound drivers of stopped vehicles ahead and help reduce the risk of rear-end collisions.

E-mail us at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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