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Opinion: Hyperloop Project Impossible Without Eminent Domain

February 12, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Transportation No Comments

Legislators in Jefferson City have given initial approval to the idea of a Hyperloop connecting St. Louis to Kansas City. However, an amendment bans the use of eminent domain. (Source).

An experimental Hyperloop pod on display in downtown St. Louis in October 2019.

Before going any further, here are some definitions:

  • Hyperloop:  A proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX. Hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient, thereby drastically reducing travel times over medium-range distances. (Wikipedia)
  • Eminent Domain: Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.  (Wex Law Dictionary)

Although the proposed project would largely follow the existing I-70 right-of-way, there might be bits of land needed here and there over such a long distance. An outright ban on the use of eminent domain will kill the project.

Still trying to decide if that’s a good or bad thing — I’m still not sold on the idea being feasible. If it does get built I’m pretty sure I won’t live to see the ribbon cutting.

Another view of the experimental Hyperloop pod on display in downtown St. Louis in October 2019.

Here are the non-scientific results of the recent Sunday Poll: 

Q: Agree or disagree: A Hyperloop system can be built connecting St. Louis with Kansas City without using eminent domain.

  • Strongly agree: 0 [0%]
  • Agree: 1 [5.26%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [15.79%]
  • Disagree: 7 [36.84%]
  • Strongly disagree: 8 [42.11%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Rather than have a ban they should have limited criteria for the use of eminent domain. Experts could help draft criteria so property owners adjacent to I-70 ROW could be reassured that huge swaths of their land won’t be taken away.

Otherwise the project is impossible, we shouldn’t even fund a test section.

— Steve Patterson

 

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