On Thursday morning, the city of Chicago announced that the mayor’s office had chosen The Boring Company to build an express line between O’Hare International Airport and Block 37 in the center of the city, known as The Loop. The line will consist of two parallel tunnels, and it could take as little as 12 minutes to travel from point to point, according to a city press release.
The announcement is a big step for The Boring Company, which was founded in 2016 by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk founded the company in hopes of easing the city’s stalemate by building more tunnels, a pursuit that has prompted the company’s engineers to improve tunneling techniques.
The next step will bring the company and the city together to negotiate a contract that will be presented to the Chicago City Council.
Past city officials have tried to build an express line between Chicago’s largest airport and downtown, but to no avail. This most recent effort was originally proposed last November when the city opened a “Qualification Request”, the first formal step in vetting companies eligible to submit proposals. Two companies, including The Boring Company, advanced through the second phase of applying for proposals in March.
The details we know
While contract negotiations may change some details, the City of Chicago revealed some of the key components of this new express service in its Thursday press release.
First, construction will not be funded by the taxpayer at all. The Boring Company will have to fund the entire construction itself and operate and maintain the express line after it is completed.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel stated that the winning company should transport passengers and their luggage between the airport and downtown in 20 minutes or less. The Boring Company promises that the system will transport passengers in 12 minutes with automated electric cars that carry 16 passengers (and their luggage) to a vehicle. A new station would be built downtown to house this express line.
The Boring Company has already released details about the proposed system – it’s calling the system a “Loop,” as in a modified version of the “Hyperloop” idea. (This means there will be a Loop to The Loop – very cute, Chicago.) Unlike the Hyperloop idea, the tunnels will not be depressurized. The company has stated that its electric pods would travel at 125-150 miles per hour. The press release from the City of Chicago confirmed that The Boring Company has proposed vehicles that will travel faster than 100 miles per hour.
The exact line of the Loop has not yet been determined, but it will consist of two parallel tunnels running “straight northwest from downtown following the alignment of the public highway,” according to the city’s press release. City spokesman Grant Klinzman told Ars that currently the only scheduled stops are between O’Hare and Block 37, although future stops are not ruled out.
The electric pods would depart both O’Hare and Block 37 as often as every 30 seconds.
One of the city’s key stipulations was that the service will cost less than comparable taxi and rideshare services, and The Boring Company has presumably said it can agree to those terms. In addition to demanding no taxpayer funding, the city also said The Boring Company would have to agree “to ensure that taxpayers are protected from all the costs of an incomplete project.” Exact project costs and construction timelines will be negotiated with the contract.
In its press release, the city said that approximately 20,000 people travel between O’Hare and Chicago’s Loop every day, and that number is expected to rise to 35,000 per day by 2045. “The express service will bring countless benefits to the city, travelers and residents: concerns. for a faster commute between the airport and downtown; helping to reduce congestion on the roads in the region; promoting economic growth and creating jobs over the life of the project,” the city’s press release said.
If all goes well in the contract negotiation process, the City of Chicago’s selection of The Boring Company will be the most important stepping stone for the company to date. So far, the company has obtained a permit to excavate a parking lot in Washington, D.C., and has received permission from the state of Maryland to build a 10-mile tunnel “under a Baltimore-Washington borough.” Parkway.” But those two projects don’t solve the biggest problem with major transportation infrastructure projects: navigating the politics and concerns of every jurisdiction and landowner between point A and point B.
In Los Angeles, the company had made some more headway and received city approval to build a 2.7-mile proof-of-concept tunnel and station parallel to the 405 freeway.
But in Chicago, the city will help The Boring Company with all the necessary permits, and there seems to be some political will to have such a tunnel built in the city, and relatively quickly.
Listing image by The Boring Company