Now, when we last left off, the whole of the Hyperloop was going to cost $7.5 billion from San Francisco to Los Angeles—a cost of $18 million per mile. That includes everything, apparently, stations, vehicles, maintenance facilities, land acquisition, the whole lot. So the expected cost of the test facility (free land, rural, pancake flat, no stations, etc) would be a lot less than that right?
Wrong. The five mile text track will cost $150 million, or $30 million per mile. It is slated to be built in Quay Valley, a fanciful solar-powered city in the middle of the Central Valley (with stifling summer heat and pollution, to say nothing of the scenery), so the land acquisition costs are, in all likelihood, zero. It's pancake flat there with nothing to go over or under, so there's another zero item on the budget. And still, a test track is going to cost more per mile than the overall project is slated to cost.
As it happens, it will also cost significantly more than parallel stretches of the actually-feasible California High Speed Rail track costs. The 65-mile phase 2-3, which happens to run in the neighborhood of the yet-unbuilt Quay Valley, came in well below the expected budget: $1.2 billion. That's $18 million per mile, barely half what the cost of the Hyperloop's test track will cost on a per-mile. That includes three dozen grade separations, by the way, and it's a firm number; as a design-build contract the bidder will be responsible for (most) cost overruns. And when complete, it will actually be able to carry people somewhere useful (by 2018 it will speed existing Amtrak trips along the same corridor where empty Hyperloop pods may be going around in costly circles)
I'm reminded of an early Seinfeld episode in which Kramer wants to rebuild his apartment with levels. Kramer proposes his plan—on Youtube here—and Jerry's reaction is that it will not happen ("I know that you can't, and I'm positive that you won't!"). Kramer proposes a bet, to which Jerry agrees. The script takes it from there:
MORTY: … So, how are your levels coming along?That's about how I feel about the Hyperloop. Could it be done? Of course it could be done! Anything could be done! But it's only done if it's done.
KRAMER: Oh, well … I decided I'm not gonna do it.
JERRY: (Sarcastically) Really? What a shock.
JERRY: So, when do I get my dinner?
KRAMER: There's no dinner. The bet's off. I'm not gonna do it.
JERRY: Yes. I know you're not gonna do it. That's why I bet.
KRAMER: There's not bet if I'm not doing it.
JERRY: That's the bet! That you're not doing it!
KRAMER: Yeah, well, I could do it. I don't want to do it.
JERRY: We didn't bet on if you wanted to. We bet on if it would be done.
KRAMER: And it could be done.
JERRY: Well, of course it could be done! Anything could be done! But it only is done if it's done. Show me the levels! The bet is the levels.
KRAMER: But I don't want the levels!
JERRY: That's the bet!
And an over-budget test track is not going to inspire a lot of confidence.