It's an ambitious project that would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles with a high speed transportation system running through the San Joaquin Valley. But it's not California's planned high speed train system. Instead it's called the Hyperloop - the latest concept from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
And while Fresno isn't a part of Musk's vision for the project's initial phase, a document released today by the founder of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, indicates the city is a potential stop on the loop, if the project ever becomes a reality.
Musk's concept aims to transport people between Southern California and the Bay Area by means of an elevated tubeway. Passengers would ride in small capsules that would be electrically propelled to around 800 mph through the "low pressure" tubes. Musk claims a travel time of between Los Angeles and San Francisco of just 30 minutes, with tubes leaving every 30 seconds. Solar panels would power the system, which would run through the San Joaquin Valley primarily along the Interstate 5 corridor.
Musk says the idea for the system was sparked in part by California's high speed rail system:
When the California “high speed” rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were too. How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL – doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars – would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world? Note, I am hedging my statement slightly by saying “one of”. The head of the California high speed rail project called me to complain that it wasn’t the very slowest bullet train nor the very most expensive per mile.
Musk's project is little more than a rough concept at this point. His team estimates that the project could cost around $6 billion, and a working model could be built within 3-4 years. However, with his existing high profile projects, such as the SpaceX rocket and the Tesla Model S sedan, Musk says the Hyperloop is a "low priority" for him. He says he considers the system to be an "open source" transportation project, borrowing a term from the software industry, and encourages others to contribute their knowledge and expertise to refining the concept.
As for Fresno, Musk's initial planning document says that while the main I-5 tubeway would bypass the city, a spur line could eventually be built that would connect to the main line through a route along Highway 41. He estimates that capsules could depart Fresno for Los Angeles every 15 minutes and San Francisco every 30 minutes, carrying around 1.5 million passengers annually.