From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company Will Build Chicago’s High-Speed Transit Link between the Loop and O’Hare

Out of the four companies that were shortlisted by the City of Chicago to build the windy city’s high-speed transit link between the Loop and the O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s “The Boring Company” to do the job.

The Wednesday announcement was acknowledged by The Boring Company in a late tweet the same day.

“We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago,” read the tweet.

Despite the fact that, until recently, the concerned city officials had been considering the more traditional high-speed rail as the answer to the city’s commute issues between the two points in question, they decided to place their bet on The Boring Company – more because of Musk’s reputation as a go-getter than anything else.

“We’re taking a bet on a guy who doesn’t like to fail — and his resources. There are a bunch of Teslas on the road. He put SpaceX together. He’s proven something,” Mayor Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune in his Wednesday interview with the daily.

“The risk — with no financial risk — is I’m betting on a guy who has proven in space, auto and now a tunnel, that he can innovate and create something of the future. Given his track record, we are taking his reputation and saying, ‘This is a guy in two other transportation modes who has not failed.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

While specifics are still awaited, we do know that the Chicago Infrastructure Trust’s initial Request for Qualification talks about a high-speed transit system that will “improve transportation between O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago by providing faster, more direct, and more reliable service.”

Currently, it takes a minimum of 40 minutes and as much as $60 for a taxi commute between the Loop, Chicago’s central business district, and O’Hare International Airport said to be one of the world’s busiest.

The proposed link, dubbed the Chicago Express Loop, that The Boring Company is expected to start work on as soon as the details and specifics are finalized between the concerned parties, will not only cut down the travel time between the two points to just about 12 minutes, but bring the cost down to a much more affordable $20 to $25 per trip, as well.

“If you look at the history of Chicago … every time we’ve been an innovator in transportation, we have seized the future,” Emanuel told the Tribune.

“I think figuring out — when time is money — how to shrink the distance between the economic and job engines of O’Hare and downtown positions Chicago as the global leader and global city in the United States,” added the Mayor.

The Chicago Tribune reported that while, both, The Boring Company and the Chicago authorities have not yet volunteered any information on what the final route is going to be, a source privy to the Hawthorne, California-based company’s plans says that the preliminary route proposes to “follow Randolph Street west from Block 37 and then run under the Kennedy Expressway northwest before tracking north under Halsted Street and northwest under Milwaukee Avenue,”

A Boring Company passenger pod
A Boring Company passenger pod

“The tunnels then would run northwest under Elston Avenue near Goose Island before later again crossing under the Kennedy Expressway and heading west to O’Hare, according to a source familiar with the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly,” said the daily.

The source also told the Tribune that the link’s O’Hare station is likely to be built near the new international terminal that the Mayor had earlier announced as part of the $8.5 billion airport overhaul project.

The proposal outlines that the Chicago Express Loop project will not be financed by the taxpayers’ money; it will be “100% privately funded.”

This, effectively, means that Musk is on his own, in so far as the project costs are concerned, in return for which his company will be entitled to all the revenue earned from the transit fees, as well as all other income generated from advertisements, in-car sales, etc.

The City of Chicago, basically, wants Musk’s company to “design, build, finance, operate and maintain” the ambitious high-speed transit system between Block 37 and O’Hare.

“We set forth a pretty ambitious proposal for fast service from downtown to O’Hare at no public cost,” Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin said.

“One is proposing a more traditional rapid rail service. The other is proposing a tunnel service. Cost components will be different. But the city won’t be on the hook for any of it,” he added.

According to reliable sources and based on the information provided by Mayor Emanuel’s office and the company officials themselves, here’s what is expected of The Boring Company.

  • The Chicago Express Loop must have the capability to transport at least 2,000 passengers each way, every hour.
  • The frequency of cars is required to be as high as every 30 to 45 seconds, with each car carrying up to 16 passengers, including their luggage.
  • Each one-way commute should cost less than what the current taxi and ride-sharing services charge.
  • The Boring Company will complete the unfinished underground transit station at the Loop and also build a new station at the O’Hare International Airport.
  • The Chicago Express Loop’s tunnels are expected to be about 14 feet in diameter, about half the size of a regular tunnel, which, of course, translates to speed and economy, as smaller tunnels can be dug faster and at a lesser cost.

When Emanuel was asked in a Wednesday interview to comment on his relationship with Elon Musk, the Chicago Mayor said that he had not had a chance to “consciously” talk to Musk “about this project,” as he had been busy with the city’s ongoing procurement process, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Emanuel did, however, say that he had “dealt with him in the past when I was in the White House” and had spoken to the billionaire at other times, as well, but had not had a word with him in the last four to five years.

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