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Hyperloop seeks to blow WVU engineering students’ minds

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kristen Hammer, business development director for Virgin Hyperloop One, had a straightforward message for dozens of West Virginia University engineering students.

Kristen Hammer

“The journey that you take should not be scary.”

Yeah, right. How about when you’re in a pod exceeding 600 miles an hour in a vacuum sealed tube?

Fortunately, Hammer was referring to life’s journeys. Hammer, whose educational background is in welding, was exhorting student to think big.

She presented the mind-blowing possibilities of Hyperloop as representatives of the company swung through Morgantown while determining where to place a certification center that would involve high-speed testing and regulatory issues.

The hyperloop is a proposed method of high-speed transportation for people or freight through a system of tubes.

A hyperloop system could connect cities, allowing transportation in pods zipping through sealed tubes at speeds of 600 miles an hour or more.

This is possible because of the magic of a “proprietary magnetic levitation system.”

It’s right out of the Jetsons, but for the traveler Hammer said it’s fairly mundane — a matter of locating a nearby portal on an app, heading that way and then zipping to another town.

“You can sit there with your hot coffee and not spill anything on yourselves,” she told the Morgantown crowd.

But more research and testing are necessary.

While state officials, including representatives of the Development Office, plus WVU and Marshall universities are making their best pitch to lure Hyperloop’s certification center to West Virginia,, the pitch on Thursday evening was meant to capture students’ imaginations.

“We’ve come here because West Virginia is interested,” Hammer said. “The fact that you’re all here and listening and learning is really speaking a lot for this region.”

The Hyperloop public presentation took place at Vantage Ventures on University Avenue, where momentum has sprung from a partnership with West Virginia native John Chambers, former chairman of Cisco Systems.

As students started filled the seats and then stood at the side and back of the room, overhead speakers played “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and then vintage Fleetwood Mac.

Students participated in a question and answer session by tossing each other a microphone safely encased in a puffy cube with WVU branding. They asked questions about financial efficiency and safety considerations.

A mechanical and aerospace engineering student Matt Barker, a Detroit native, asked a question about how Virgin Hyperloop One differs from a concept promoted by Elon Musk. The two have similar ideas but are not directly connected.

“I was really excited to ask my question because I’m really passionate about this stuff,” Barker said.

Even for these early adapters, development of the hyperloop might still take a while. Hammer described full implementation of about a decade from now.

“You’re going to go out in the world and before you know it you’re going to be riding hyperloops,” Hammer told the students.

Brad McElhinny/MetroNews

West Virginia University engineering student Matt Barker asks a question about the Hyperloop transportation system.

“I cannot tell you how excited I am to be here tonight,” said Javier Reyes, dean of the Chambers College of Business and Economics. “Now the future is here.”

Reyes aimed his introductions at the students who gathered.

“You can dream it, you can build it,” he said.

Hammer invited students to stay in touch with the company.

“We’re always looking for good talent. I know you have that here,” she said.

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Jobs & Hope West Virginia program graduates first class

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The state’s new multiagency recovery and training program has its first class of graduated students.

Jobs & Hope West Virginia, a program meant to combine addiction recovery programs with career training to help West Virginians overcome obstacles that might keep them out of the job market, graduated around a dozen individuals on Thursday in front of Gov. Jim Justice.

Office of the Governor

Jim Justice

Justice, who created the program as Jim’s Dream a year ago, spoke alongside leaders from the West Virginia National Guard at the program’s base at Camp Dawson near Kingwood.

“Let’s get treatment if needed, and let’s get treatment for free if needed,” Justice said of his original thoughts about the program. “Then let’s get real training for free to where you are really trained to do something.”

The graduates participated in a week-long 54-hour grader operator course taught by heavy construction equipment instructors with the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG).

Justice spoke highly of the relationships built between graduates and members of the WVNG.

“The thing that is really unbelievable that you should get is they are thanking you,” he said to the graduates. “They are asking you to stay in touch with them, where they can help you even more.”

Today I was honored to present certificates to the graduates at our first Jobs & Hope WV training class — a grader operator course! The Jobs and Hope Program gives these men and women a real opportunity for success! #WV #WVGov

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) November 21, 2019

Participants in the program have a final step of the expungement of a non-violent criminal record after completion.

Justice told them all on Thursday that life is about how a person responds from making a mistake.

“We all drift and we all make mistakes, every last one of us. There is nobody perfect in this world.”

Jobs & Hope officially launched last month and drew $29.7 million in funding for its first year from multiple state agencies.

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North Central Report: Week 13



No. 8 Frankfort (9-2) at No. 1 Fairmont Senior (11-0)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Last week: The Falcons took care of Nicholas County, 58-12. The Polar Bears remained unbeaten by outscoring Winfield, 63-34.

Why it’s important: Dating back to the start of the 2018 season, Farimont Senior has won 25 consecutive games. The Polar Bears have also been in the Super Six each of the last three seasons. Frankfort is out to dethrone the top seed in Class AA with a spot in a semifinal at stake.

Who to watch for Frankfort: For the Falcons to stay competitive at East-West Stadium, they’ll need big performances from their backfield duo of J.J. Blank and Nick Marley. Neither had trouble producing against the Grizzlies, with Marley rushing for 129 yards, Blank adding 125 and each scoring twice.

Who to watch for Fairmont Senior: With Kennedy Award candidate Gage Michael nursing an ankle injury during last week’s game against the Generals, the Polar Bears needed other players to step up. Frankie Smith came up with three second-half interceptions, while Kieshawn Cottingham gained 185 yards and scored three times on the ground. 

No. 10 Mingo Central (9-2) at No. 2 Bridgeport (10-1)

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last week: The Miners held off Shady Spring, 13-7. The Indians handled Lewis County in far eashier fashion, 56-15.

Why it’s important: From 2013-2016, one of these two teams won the Class AA championship each year. The Indians had a three-peat through 2015, before the Miners broke through for their title in 2016. Since then, Fairmont Senior and Bluefield have met in each of the last two title games — but that can’t happen this season. The winner of this quarterfinal between two of the state’s premier programs puts itself one win away from a trip to Wheeling.

Who to watch for Mingo Central: Quarterback Daylin Goad and wide receiver Drew Hatfield are one of the more prolific duos the state has seen in sometime. Goad showed he’s much more than just a passer in last week’s win over the Tigers, rushing for 190 yards and two scores. The Miners’ improved defense also continued to shine, holding Shady Spring to 210 total yards.

Who to watch for Bridgeport: The Indians’ power run game will be on display early and often against the Miners. Brian Henderson rushed for 110 yards and a pair of TDs against the Minutemen despite carrying the ball only four times. Carson Winkie, who also plays a pivotal role on the Tribe defense, recorded 101 rushing yards and a pair of scores.


No. 8 East Hardy (8-3) at No. 1 Doddridge County (11-0)

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last week: The Bulldogs rolled by Madonna, 57-7. The Cougars hung on to beat Midland Trail, 12-7.

Why it’s important: Since an 0-2 start, East Hardy has won eight of nine. Its only loss over that time is also its lone loss to a Class A team — 7-6 against Pendleton County. The Bullldogs haven’t lost a regular season game since 2017 and can reach a Class A semifinal for a second straight season.

Who to watch for East Hardy: Quarterback Christian Dove threw two touchdowns in the first-round win, before forcing a late fumble that the Cougars recovered to hang on for the win. East Hardy will have its work cut out to keep this one competitive, but the Cougars have allowed just 23 total points in their last five games, three of which are against Class A playoff teams. 

Who to watch for Doddridge County: Reece Burnside and Hunter America both rushed for more than 100 yards a week ago. America did so in limited action due to an injury that kept him out for the second half of the game. Quarterback Noah Bumgardner grows more comfortable behind center each week and was 7-of-8 for 184 yards against the Blue Dons. Bumgardner threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Griffin Devericks, which marked Devericks’ ninth receiving touchdown this year.

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Second arrest in Mineral County double murder

CAPON BRIDGE, W.Va. — A second suspect has been arrested following a double murder in Mineral County.

Hampshire County sheriff’s deputies took Michael Paul Duncan into custody in Capon Bridge Thursday.

Duncan, 29, was wanted in connection with the deaths of two Burlington residents. Donald Rutter, 32, and Destiny Foster, 25. They were both killed by gunfire Monday at Burlington residence, according to investigators.

Duncan is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Police charged Jimmy Lee Lambert, 33, Tuesday, with the murders.

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West Virginia makes its pitch for Hyperloop high-speed pod transit development center

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia wants in on the ground floor of a space age transportation system that would zip people and packages from place to place in pods at hundreds of miles per hour.

Officials with Virgin Hyperloop One are in town to assess West Virginia as one of more than 20 states lining up as possible locations for a certification center that would involve high-speed testing, improving operations such as the specific step-by-step of getting on board or off, plus transportation regulatory issues.

Diana Zhou

“We want to hear from the state of West Virginia what this could look like in the state of West Virginia,” said Diana Zhou, director of project strategy for Virgin Hyperloop One.

Gov. Jim Justice and his top staff promised to make an earnest pitch.

“OK, so where do we sign,” Justice told Zhou.

“Bring those people from Los Angeles here and let them experience these incredible season and incredible people, and they will beg you to leave Los Angeles.”

Office of the Governor

Jim Justice

Justice appeared at a Thursday afternoon press conference along with senior adviser Bray Cary, Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch, Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton, Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer and Transportation Secretary Byrd White.

“We’re going to do any and everything we possibly can to where we hope and pray this will be your next almost heaven home,” Justice said.

“We brought everybody. We brought all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to answer any and all questions and let you see what expertise they have.”

LIVE: Gov. Justice participates in press event with WVU to discuss Virgin Hyperloop One #WV #WVGov

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) November 21, 2019

A hyperloop system could connect cities, allowing transportation in pods zipping through sealed tubes at speeds of 600 miles an hour or more.

This is possible because of the magic of a “proprietary magnetic levitation system.”

The development company has a mid-December application deadline, hopes to make a decision by early next year and wants to have the center running within a few years. Officials said it could employ several hundred people.

“Our timetable is aggressive. We’re unapologetic about those ambitions and we’re looking to commercialize as soon as we can,”  Zhou said.

Among the factors being assessed are local expertise, available land and facilities. Because it’s early in the process, few specifics were available.

“Financial incentives will be important to us as well,” Zhou said. “We’re prepared to relocate a lot of our employees to build a facility here.”

Zhou said the company is looking at a six-mile swath of land, and that several West Virginia locations are under consideration. None were specified.

Research and academic support are additional factors. West Virginia University officials are heavily involved — and Zhou planned to take a ride on the original hyperloop, the PRT, on Friday. Marshall University is also cooperating with the effort.

And the company is looking for support in navigating the regulatory system, in part because, so far, there’s nothing like it in the world.

“We’re not rail. We’re not like a highway. We’re not like a plane,” Zhou said. “So what are we really?”

It wouldn’t hurt to be near regulatory agencies in Washington, D.C., she said.

“It’s certainly helpful,” she said. “If we could build a Hyperloop between Morgantown and Washington, D.C., it would be a 40-minute ride.”

Rob Alsop

During a morning appearance on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” West Virginia University vice president Rob Alsop described encouraging possibilities if Hyperloop were to choose the state.

“Working with the state of West Virginia, we think we have a compelling case for why it makes sense for West Virginia to be the site of this certification center,” Alsop said.

“We’ve had some initial discussions with Virgin Hyperloop. We’ve had a tremendous amount of discussions with the state. We think we’re well-positioned to bring that type of activity to West Virginia.”

Justice said the state has to assess some financial and legal aspects of the Hyperloop possibility.

“We’ve still got a lot of hoops to  jump through — hyperhoops,” Justice said.

But he said the state would do everything it can without providing too many financial stresses to land the project.

“Please give us a real look because we’ll break our necks to have you. That’s for sure,” Justice said.

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Northern Panhandle Report: Week 13

— By Shawn Rine



No. 10 Wheeling Central (7-4) at No. 2 Ritchie County (10-1) 

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last Week: Wheeling Central showed its resiliency and unwillingness to quit, as Jacob Rine hit Jalen Creighton on a bomb with seven seconds to go, for a 13-12 road victory against Tolsia. Second-seeded Ritchie County wasted little time in rolling past rival South Harrison, 40-6. It marked the third time in school history the Rebels have advanced past the first round.

Why it’s important: A berth in the state semifinals is at stake. For the Rebels, who have had to endure skepticism throughout this magnificent season, it’s an opportunity to put those doubts to rest once and for all. The Maroon Knights have been dealing with their fir share of naysayers since all-state QB Curtis McGhee III went down with a season-ending knee injury. But as Wheeling Central proved last week, it’s not easy to kill a (two-time) champion.

Who to watch for Wheeling Central: With McGhee on the sideline, junior Jordan Waterhouse had had to take over the lion’s share of the running duties. He’s quick and elusive, as the numbers — 915 yards and nine scores on 117 carries — suggest. He had 102 on 19 carries last week, before leaving the game with a head injury.

Who to watch for Ritchie County: Tre Moss leads the ground game with 1,455 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Garett Owens has 786 yards and 15 more scores rushing.


No. 6 Oak Glen (11-0) at No. 3 Poca (11-0) 

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Last Week: Playing in the first home playoff game in school history, Oak Glen took Wyoming East out of its game quickly en route to a 55-13 victory. Poca, meanwhile, got a bit of a test from North Marion before emerging with a 41-27 verdict that helped set up this battle of unbeatens.

Why it’s important: Poca, which produced its first undefeated regular season since 1978, has been here several times in the past. But it’s been what seems like an eternity since the Dots were threats to make it to the Super Six at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Golden Bears have never been there. Oak Glen has had its schedule questioned virtually all season, but seemed to have quieted some of the whispers last week. A victory here would snuff them out completely.

Who to watch for Oak Glen: The entire defensive unit. The offense gets all the attention because of its quick-strike ability, but he defense has carried this team. The Golden Bears surrender 10.55 points and 81.45 rushing yards per game. When they take away the running game, “DB High School” as the secondary has named itself, takes over. Oak Glen defenders have picked off 27 opposing passes this season, including a state-leading (all classes) 14 by senior team leader Michael Lemley.

Who to watch for Poca: Everyone knows by now that Ethan Payne stirs the drink for the Dots. He’s set virtually every state rushing and scoring mark on the books this season. In total, Payne has rushed for 2,661 yards and has scored 51 total touchdowns. If the Golden Bears can somehow limit his effectiveness, they will march onto the semifinals.

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Mardi Gras Casino officials cut the ribbon after large remodel

NITRO, W.Va. — Bigger, better and brighter is how President and General Manager of Mardi Gras Casino Eric Althaus described the new facility.

Officials from the casino and all over the Kanawha Valley gathered there on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting event to the 18-month remodel that wrapped up this past week.

Mardi Gras

Eric Althaus

“A lot of work has been put into this renovation,” Althaus told MetroNews. “Now we can market out that the major renovation is done. You can come in and not have to worry about the sound or dislocation of slot machines, you can actually come in and take advantage of every amenity that we have.”

The inside of the building was, in fact, brighter as a new lighting system was a key addition. Improvements of note were the removal of the ceiling grid to add to the square footage of the building, new carpets, slot bases, machines, and chairs throughout the entire property.

The popular café grill doubled in size during the renovation and now has its line on the right side of the restaurant avoiding the front doors and ATM.

The entrance through those front doors has changed as there is no longer a wall with a bar on the other side. Althaus said the move to knock that bar down and add small service bars will add to the guest experience with a more open floor plan and better sightline.

The 34-year old facility had 850 slots gaming slots before the remodel, and got down to around half of that during the construction.

Althaus said while the casino currently has 844 slots, the classics are back and new games have been added with more plans in the future for game expansion.

The new logo for Mardi Gras Casino.

“We can go up to as much as 1,000 with the floor plan that we have right now,” he said. “As we get the occupancy back and come back to the property, they will see slots back that they loved to play. It may not be in the old location as it was, as the entire gaming floor changed, but we have all those same themes along with new themes.”

In addition to the new slots, new table games have been added along with a new players club, promotional stage, and a high limit room.

Althaus hinted at more plans to expand in the future, starting with a makeover of the Louie’s Lounge entertainment area in 2020.

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Three Guys Before The Game – Oklahoma State Preview (Episode 158)

The final home game of the season presents an interesting challenge for the West Virginia University football team.

To take another step along the “Climb”, WVU will have to find a way to slow down the nation’s leading rusher Chuba Hubbard.

Are the Mountaineers ready to record consecutive victories over ranked teams?

Brad Howe, Hoppy Kercheval and Tony Caridi analyze the matchup and take listener questions.

The “Guys” return Sunday with a review of the WVU-OSU matchup and the WVU basketball game against Boston University.

Never miss an episode by subscribing for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google.



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State EDA steps in to finish financing for Rockwool plant water line

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state is making good on a commitment that it made two years ago to the developers of the Rockwool plant in Jefferson County.


Michael Graney

The state Economic Development Authority approved a bond resolution Thursday that will result in Roxul USA, the parent company of the plant, receiving up to $6 million it’s spent on construction of a water line and water tank on the old orchards property near Ranson.

The state originally promised to pay for the water line up front through the state Water Development Authority and the Infrastructure Jobs Development Council via the Jefferson County Development Authority but the Jefferson County group backed out after most of its members resigned over the Rockwool controversy.

The state Economic Development Authority essentially took the place of the Jefferson EDA in Thursday’s vote.

“We are just following up on the obligation of the (Jefferson County) EDA to support this construction,” state EDA Chairman and state Development Office Director Michael Graney said. “It was an obligation under the original agreement for someone to do it. Recognizing that that group chose not to do it, we had an obligation to do it.”

Rockwool spokesman Michael Zarin told MetroNews the company appreciates the state stepping in and making good on the original commitment that the water line would be provided at no cost. Zarin said Rockwool didn’t want the project to fall behind so they financed the work.

“When the Jefferson County Development Authority didn’t complete its end of the bargain we stepped in and basically took over because we wanted to keep things on track,” Zarin said.

Construction of the plant was originally announced in 2017, public protests began about a year later. The $150 million plant will be used for manufacturing stone wool insulation. It will include two smoke stacks each about 213 feet tall, 460,000 square feet of space and could use between 100,000 and 125,000 gallons of water per day. The plant will employ roughly 150 people in positions ranging from production to management. More than 70 percent of the project has been completed. Production could begin late next year, Zarin said Thursday.

“We have about 225 construction workers on the site now and the majority of the building footprint is installed and we’re in the process of sort of closing up the buildings. We’ve begun installing equipment in the areas of the building that are complete,” Zarin said.

Rockwool hopes to begin a hiring program for plant jobs in the January-February 2020 time frame.

The plant is current waiting on the renewal of a stormwater permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection and approval from the state Public Service Commission on the financing plan for the sewer line on the project.

Zarin said there remains opposition to the plant but it doesn’t appear to be growing.

“There is a group who are still opposed to the project an they are active and committed to oppose the project and that’s fair enough but that doesn’t appear to be growing in any way,” he said. “It’s familiar faces and again, that’s fair enough and we respect that.”

The opposition has centered on the health and safety impact of the plant.

The bond resolution passed unanimously without discussion at Thursday’s WV EDA meeting in Charleston. The authority is borrowing $6 million from the state Water Development Authority in place of the Jefferson County EDA. The state EDA will lease the water line to Jefferson Utilities, Inc. The state EDA and Water Development Authority will eventually get the money back through revenue from the water line customers.

The water line is approximately four miles long with pipes ranging from 2 to 16 inches in diameter. It includes fire hydrants and a nearly 793,000 gallon water tank.

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WVU women move to 4-0 with tough tests up next in Cancun

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After a 35-point win to improve their record to 4-0, head coach Mike Carey was quick to remind everyone that the challenging portion of WVU’s non-conference schedule is about to begin.

“You have to play some of these games to find out where you really are,” Carey said. “A lot of that stuff is not real. If you get against a good team, some of that stuff that is working today is not going to work against them because they are better defensively. They are bigger, stronger, they are taller and they are more athletic.”

The Mountaineers cruised past Coppin State, 82-47 Thursday morning at the Coliseum on ‘Education Day’. A crowd of 10,663 was made up largely of elementary and middle school students from around North Central West Virginia.

“Great enthusiasm in the gym,” Carey said. “Those kids did a great job.”

This will be West Virginia’s last game at the Coliseum until December 31st when they host Cornell.

Kysre Gondrezick led the Mountaineers with 20 points. She has scored 20 or more points in all four of WVU’s games this season. Tynice Martin added 17. Kari Niblack (13), Esmery Martinez (10) and K.K. Deans (10) also scored in double figures.

The Mountaineers jumped out to a 23-8 lead at the end of the first quarter but were outscored 17-14 in the second, taking a 37-25 halftime lead.

“I am just not happy with execution on both ends,” Carey said.

“Overall, I think we are getting better but we just have a lot more work to do,” Gondrezick said.

Ranked 25th in this week’s AP poll, the Mountaineers hit the road for a pair of contests in Cancun over Thanksgiving weekend. WVU will face Creighton (3-1) Thursday and New Mexico (5-0) next Friday.

“That will be good for us to step up going to Mexico,” Carey said. “I am looking forward to that.”

Mike Carey postgame press conference

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