Musk's Boring Co bid wins Chicago rapid link: Like to try 150mph on electric 'skates'?

The Boring Company could soon start tunneling for Chicago's new O'Hare Airport high-speed link.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: What is Hyperloop? The game-changing transport tech explained.

The Boring Company, Elon Musk's infrastructure and tunneling business, has been selected by the City of Chicago to build and run a high-speed underground link between O'Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago.

The proposed link will shuttle eight to 16 passengers on 'skate' electric vehicles in an underground loop between the airport and the Block 37 development in downtown Chicago.

The skates will travel at up to 150mph and take 12 minutes end to end at an estimated cost of $20 to $25 per ride, according to the Chicago Tribune. The roughly 18-mile trip takes 40 minutes on Chicago's existing Blue Line, which costs $5.

The Boring Company has estimated the cost of the project to be $1bn, which would be entirely funded by it in exchange for all revenue from the system's transit fees, advertising, branding and in-vehicle sales.

Musk and Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, are expected to announce the proposal on Thursday.

SEE: Tech and the future of transportation (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Chicago in March shortlisted Boring and O'Hare Xpress LLC, a consortium that included a company that designed a terminal at London's Heathrow Airport, according to Bloomberg.

Boring will now exclusively negotiate with Chicago on a final proposal including the exact route.

The city picked Boring despite its tunneling technology remaining unproven. The company has been digging under a SpaceX parking lot, while its application to dig a tunnel beneath Los Angeles and Culver City is caught up in regulatory obstacles and legal challenges.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel said the city is betting on Musk's achievements with Tesla and SpaceX to get the airport link running.

"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," said Emanuel.

"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."

The transport system Boring has proposed is called Loop, a slower version of the Hyperloop that's designed for shorter distances and doesn't require vacuum conditions.

The battery-powered electric skates that carry passengers are based on the Tesla Model X. One would leave as frequently as every 30 seconds and the system would operate 20 hours per day, according to Boring.

Boring argues that its Tunnel Boring Machines are faster and cheaper than existing tunnel digging technologies. Instead of standard 28 feet one-lane tunnels, Boring says by reducing the diameter to 14 feet it can reduce tunneling costs by three to four times.

The company is also aiming for continuous tunneling and instead of carting off earth to a disposal site, it would recycle the earth to build bricks that could potentially be used inside the tunnels.


Between eight and 16 passengers will travel underground in each 'skate' electric vehicle between the airport and downtown Chicago.

Image: The Boring Company

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