We've spent years waiting for SouthCoast Rail, but something much more futuristic could also be heading this way.

A proposal has been submitted for the creation of a "Hyperloop" mode of travel from Providence to Boston, with a stop in Somerset. The Hyperloop involves propulsion technology that involves levitating pods that use electricity and magnets to move through a low-friction environment. It was first proposed by Tesla co-founder Elon Musk in 2013.

Essentially, passengers would enter a pod of seats contained inside a tube, and then travel at the speed of sound. The trip from Providence to Boston would take just minutes.

Hyperloop Massachusetts is the only team from the Northeast. It has been presented in news stories as being a connection between Providence and Boston that just so happens to have a stop in Somerset, but Holly McNamara of Hyperloop Massachusetts sees it as so much more.

“The keystone for this initiative is the SouthCoast of Massachusetts,” McNamara said. “We chose Somerset because we have a significant amount of land available.”

McNamara serves on the Board of Selectman in Somerset, and is a native of the town. She said her vision is to eventually see Hyperloop Massachusetts also extend to Fall River and New Bedford and connect the entire SouthCoast.

“The SouthCoast as a region has been trying to get back on the map since 1959,” she said. “This whole region of the state has not had direct access to Boston since then. We want to bring this connection down the coast and allow this area to have access to the two cities, and beyond.”

The Massachusetts proposal is the shortest of 11 proposed routes around the United States and among 35 worldwide being considered by the developer, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One, that was whittled down out of 2600 worldwide proposals.

“We are the shortest, but our initial proposal covered the entire East Coast, which would have put it at the longest proposed route,” McNamara said. “We think it’s smarter to do a proof-of-concept and start small.”

Hyperloop Massachusetts will find out next month if they move on to the final round of 12. Then, three winners will be selected this summer with the hopes of having those three routes built and operational by 2021.

New Bedford City Councilor Ian Abreu reached out to McNamara recently and offered New Bedford's support for the proposal. He filed a motion for a letter of endorsement from the entire city council, which passed unamimously.

"We're looking big term, we're looking down the line. We're saying, hey look, if we continue to invest in this technology, it's definitely feasible to say 15, 20, 25 years from now, we could be looking at a Hyperloop initiative coming right here to the Southcoast," he said.

Abreu said the Hyperloop could pay huge dividends going forward, especially as cities like New York and Washington, D.C. can become connected to the Providence-Boston route and investors can come from further away and start businesses that used to be hours away but are now just minutes.

"They can invest in a New Bedford, invest in a Fall River. They can own a business, own a property and still be able to have the autonomy to go home to their families that night because of this technology," he said.

And McNamara said not only can it increase the possibility of investors coming here, it can also open up the job market to multiple cities for those who live here now.

“People are going to be able to work in New York City but still live in New Bedford,” McNamara said. “People who are already working along the East Coast can start to look at the possibility in living in a beautiful area such as the SouthCoast.”

 

McNamara also envisions a symbiotic relationship between Hyperloop and SouthCoast Rail. Yet if Hyperloop Massachusetts wins and is completed by 2021, it will beat Phase One of SouthCoast Rail by three years.

“We’re not looking to wipe them out,” she said. “Our goal is to collaborate. We’re looking to work together, and that’s potentially what could happen. We want to piggyback on the SouthCoast Rail initiative, not try to replace it but rather supplement it.”

The Hyperloop will be autonomous and on-demand, with pods leaving approximately every 20 seconds. It will travel at speeds up to 750 miles per hour, and the trip from Somerset to Boston would be completed in approximately five to 10 minutes—and McNamara said it will probably cost about the same price as a bus ticket.

Hyperloop also has zero emissions, low noise and is operated by solar power.

“They’re also talking about the possibility of, in addition to passengers and cargo, also being able to pull in vehicles as well. So you can eventually drive your car into the system and have it with you when you arrive at where you’re going,” McNamara said. “They’re really thinking outside the box. It’s extremely innovative, and this is going to revolutionize time and transportation.”