With the recent announcement that Gov. Larry Hogan and Elon Musk are committed to bringing the hyperloop to Maryland, and with word that the Carroll County Long Term Advisory Council is still hard at work, I wanted to share an idea at the crossroads of now and tomorrow in the form of an open letter to Mr. Musk (and Gov. Hogan). If others have thought of these things already, or have spoken or written of them, or are indeed planning them, I am unaware, and so I ask forgiveness and merely affirm what is to follow.
Dear Mr. Musk: Like you, I believe deeply in the United States of America and the potential that it has to offer. Like you, I believe technology can be a wonderful and beautiful thing, but that it must have its moral limits — such as with artificial intelligence. In other respects, such as with the expected hyperloop linking up major cities between Washington, D.C., and New York, I believe the beneficial impacts would be immense.
But I want to take your hyperloop one step further. It is a wonderful thing to want to link up those major cities — but I also want to encourage you to consider not merely a north-south track, but a west-moving track as well. You could build this western track from Washington or Baltimore (or somewhere in between) to at least Carroll County to begin with, and I would urge, Taneytown as well. Ultimately, I would love to see a hyperloop line that traverses the entire breadth of the state of Maryland (and then beyond).
So why begin with Carroll County? Why Taneytown? First, because it will present an important testing ground for looping up the rest of the country. Travel between Baltimore and Washington in a matter of minutes would be a wonderful thing for Marylanders — but so would travel between home in our county and work down toward Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington. Building a hyperloop extension out this way would allow you to see what legal issues would confront statewide (and then national) expansion. Additionally, Taneytown, and our county, are very friendly to technology. We have wonderful, kind, innovative and hard-working people here who would both contribute and benefit from such a transportational marvel.
In my mind, Taneytown would be one stop on a cross-state line that would begin from a place like Ocean City, tunnel beneath the Chesapeake Bay, and extend all the way west out to Garrett County. In Maryland, a state in which you can drive into any other state within 45 minutes but which takes 6.5 hours to cross itself would now have its own vast distance traversable in comparative moments. Imagine the benefits to the economy, to tourism and to family. Imagine rural residents being able to journey into the city for an evening dinner, or city residents being able to adventure out into the countryside for a Saturday.
And there’s more: Imagine fathers and mothers who commute to work in the city being able to sleep longer, spend more time with their families, and spend less time traveling to and from their offices. Imagine the great extent of talent that could move back and forth. Imagine the flexibility, increased accountability and increased responsibility of elected officials to be able to quickly and efficiently travel back and forth to meet with their constituents, or how areas of states believed to be forgotten or unremembered will be readily accessible.
Imagine how emergency medical care could be transformed, how patient costs could fall. (Hogan has demonstrated already his determination that these places should be remembered and included with his visits to the western part of our state.) Imagine, God forbid, in the event of some kind of disaster, how quickly and efficiently relief services or military units could be transferred. Imagine, as well, the benefit to our natural world, the way energy consumption would be changed, the way our natural resources might better be conserved.
Now, I know there is still work to be done, and that the funding for such a long-term engagement will have to be found. Government should not be the answer to this. It is in the hands of our citizens and private enterprise that we’ll accomplish the new era of transportation, while government facilitates the process by refusing to play the part of obstructionist. Fortunately, Maryland has done well to help in the process so far by conditionally authorizing digging to begin. It is an important first step. I encourage you, Mr. Musk, to see the project through.
I know there will be those who doubt, those who think such leaps forward are impossible or naïve at best. But for Americans who are determined to achieve their dreams, nothing is impossible. President Ronald Reagan, in his 1984 State of the Union address, began to implement one such dream when he assigned NASA the task of beginning work on a permanently manned space station (what would ultimately become the International Space Station). Today, leaders, pioneers and entrepreneurs are working out commercial space travel and a manned-mission to Mars. In the 1980s, NASA alone seemed capable of such projects, but today, it is private citizens and companies that are taking the next steps.
Reagan also believed technology used rightly could be a beautiful and important thing not only for America, but for mankind. Because of individuals like Reagan, those at NASA, those at SpaceX and elsewhere, we are one step closer to the stars. If we continue to dream of new ways to enhance our terrestrial travel, we will be one step closer to each other. By bettering our state, our nation and our world, we’ll take one step closer to living in the light of God.
Latest Carroll County Times Opinion
Nothing is impossible for America. Nothing is impossible for Maryland. Bring on the hyperloop.