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Transportation council could get Virgin Hyperloop One on track

A newly formed council by the U.S. Department of Transportation could be the jolt needed to make experimental modes of travel a reality.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced Tuesday the formation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, while speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

“New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I’ve signed an order creating a new internal department council to better coordinate the review of innovations that have multi-modal applications,” Chao said.

Virgin Hyperloop One, which has a test site near North Las Vegas, hopes the NETT Council can help commercialize its transit technology.

The company is working on an experimental mode of transportation that it says could move goods between Las Vegas and Los Angeles in about 30 minutes.

“Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that is built for the 21st century,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop One. “We want to be the company that spearheads the next giant leap forward in transportation here in the United States but we know we can’t do it alone. We applaud the USDOT for their support of this technology.”

The formation of the council follows months of work at the federal, state and local levels, Virgin Hyperloop One said in a statement.

USDOT consist of 11 operating administrations, dealing with their own traditional jurisdiction over environmental and regulatory approvals, and new technologies may not always fit under the existing regulatory structure, according to the department.

The formation of the NETT council will address inventor’s and investors’ requests to obtain various authorizations, permits and funding, and ensure traditional modal silos don’t impede the deployment of new technology, according to USDOT.

“Virgin Hyperloop One is eager to continue working with the secretary and her team,” Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group who stepped down as chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One last year, said in a statement. “Through our recent conversations it is clear she wants to be at the forefront of exploring innovative technologies to improve transportation in the United States.”

The council will hold its first planning meeting this week, and will be chaired by Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen and vice chaired by Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan. Other seats will be occupied by modal administrators and other high-ranking DOT officials, Virgin Hyperloop One said in a statement.

The hyperloop mode of transportation was designed by Telsa CEO Elon Musk, whose Boring Co., in partnership with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, announced last week plans to build an underground loop system servicing the Las Vegas Convention District. The $35-$55 million project was approved Tuesday by the LVCVA board of directors in a 10-3 vote.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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