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 city’s downtown area, 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 press release from the city.
The Boring Company proposes 125-150mph “Loop” for Chicago express train requestThe announcement is a major step for The Boring Company, which was started in 2016 by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk founded the company in the hope of alleviating city gridlock by building more tunnels, an endeavor that has set the company’s engineers toward improving 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.
Previous city officials have tried to implement an express line between Chicago’s largest airport and the downtown area but to no avail. This most recent effort was originally proposed last November, when the city opened up a “Request for Qualifications”—the first formal step in vetting companies eligible to submit proposals. Two companies, including The Boring Company, advanced past the second “Request for Proposals” stage in March.
The details we know
Although 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, the build will not be taxpayer funded at all. The Boring Company will have to finance the entire build itself and operate and maintain the express line after it’s completed.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel specified that the winning company would have to transport passengers and their luggage between the airport and downtown in 20 minutes or less. The Boring Company is promising 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 accommodate this express line.
The Boring Company has released details about its proposed system already—it calls 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 city of Chicago’s press release confirmed that The Boring Company has proposed vehicles that will travel faster than 100 miles per hour.
The Loop’s exact line hasn’t been determined yet, but it will consist of two parallel tunnels that run “straight northwest from downtown following public way alignments,” according to the city’s press release. City spokesperson Grant Klinzman told Ars that, currently, the only planned stops are between O’Hare and Block 37, although future stops haven’t been ruled out.
The electric pods would depart both O’Hare and Block 37 as frequently as every 30 seconds.
One of the city’s main stipulations was that the service cost less to use than comparable taxi and ride-share services, and, presumably, The Boring Company has said it can agree to those conditions. In addition to the no-taxpayer-funding requirement, the city also said that The Boring Company would have to agree “to ensure taxpayers would be protected against any costs incurred by 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 offer a myriad of benefits to the city, travelers, and residents: providing a faster commute between the airport and downtown; helping to mitigate congestion on the region’s roadways; fostering economic growth and creating jobs throughout the lifetime of the project,” the city’s press release noted.
If all goes well in the contract-negotiation process, The Boring Company’s selection by the city of Chicago is the most significant stepping stone for the company to date. Thus far, the company has received a permit to dig up a parking lot in Washington, DC, and it has received permission from the state of Maryland to build a 10-mile tunnel “beneath a state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington 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 been making a little more headway, receiving permission from the city to build a 2.7-mile proof-of-concept tunnel and station parallel to the 405 freeway.
But in Chicago, the city will assist The Boring Company with all necessary permits, and there does seem to be some political will to have such a tunnel built within the city, and relatively quickly.
Listing image by The Boring Company
More Info: arstechnica.com