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Special Report: Meet the group of UW-Madison students working to change the way we travel

The future of high-speed transportation could come sooner than you think, and a group of UW-Madison students is helping to make it happen.

Hyperloop technology may be able to move people nearly as fast as planes in the next 10-20 years.

Hyperloop shoots pods through vacuum tubes at hundreds of miles per hour, able to go so quickly because there’s no air resistance.

It’s similar in concept to the pneumatic tubes used at banks to send documents.

Thirty-five students from UW-Madison are testing their pod design this week at an international competition in California put on by the company Space-X.

The team’s called Badgerloop, and it’s their third time competing, with a new iteration of their pod each time.

While students from around the world rush to come up with the best design, cities in the Midwest are laying the groundwork for a commercial hyperloop network.

Some estimates say a Milwaukee to Chicago trip could be completed in 15 minutes.

Cleveland to Chicago could be a half-hour.

“The sort of shrinking of the region…allows for an increasing footprint for economic development,” said Grace Gallucci, the executive director of Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

NOACA is the transportation planning agency for the greater Cleveland area, and it’s partnered with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of the major companies in hyperloop.

Gallucci is spearheading a plan that would connect several Midwest cities by hyperloop, including Milwaukee, in the next 20-25 years.

She says they’ve found insurance companies willing to work with them too, a significant development.

“It makes it much more real knowing the risks are actually something that can be worked through,” Gallucci said. “I think we would be making a big mistake if we did not explore [hyperloop].”

Virgin Hyperloop-One, another major hyperloop company, said in a statement, in part: “A hyperloop connecting Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago, for example, would transform the movement of goods and people from the Midwest, creating a Great Lakes "Megaregion", home to 20 percent of the nation's population and economic activity. We feel there is vast, untapped economic potential in the region."

Hyperloop-One also said it expects a commercial hyperloop in 2020.

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