Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Chicago, IL, United States (4E) – The Boring Company, the tunnel construction company founded by Elon Musk in 2016, has been awarded a contract by Chicago to build an underground high-speed rail line from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport, which is being renovated.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the official announcement last week. “We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago!” tweeted the Boring Company.
The Boring Company won’t build a Hyperloop but a slower system Musk has named the “Chicago Express Loop.” When built, the Loop will transport passengers in special vehicles that will cover the 18 miles between downtown Chicago and O’Hare in about 12 minutes. By contrast, the existing above-ground Blue Line trains take about 40-45 minutes to travel that route.
The special vehicles “will leave each station as frequently as every 30 seconds. The Chicago Express Loop will operate 20 hours per day, every day of the week.”
Rahm’s office said The Boring Company is footing the bill for the entire project. The rides are expected to cost between $20 and $25, according to preliminary estimates, which is about half the cost of an Uber. The L, Chicago’s elevated train system, currently charges $5 for the same trip.
The Loop’s concept vehicles are zero-emission machines powered by Tesla batteries. The vehicles will slide — or “skate” — along rails. “Electric skates are based on the Tesla Model X, recently named the first and only SUV to achieve a NHTSA 5-Star safety rating in every category and subcategory,” said the Boring Company said in a statement. “The Chicago Express Loop’s skates will be mechanically confined to a concrete track within the tunnel and operate under safety approvals issued by both federal and state agencies.”
The company said each vehicle will be equipped with a climate-controlled cabin, which is essential to combat Chicago’s painfully cold winters and sweltering summers, as well as luggage storage space, and Wi-Fi. The Boring Company’s concept video for what its underground train service might look showed 16-passenger cars.
“There’s the potential here for a revolutionary transport system,” said Musk. “One of the great things about Chicago is that the number of approving authorities is small. There’s clear authority on getting approvals on various things. In some places there are 12 or 15 places where you need to get approval on something.”
“We expect to start drilling later this year, perhaps as soon as three or four months,” said Musk. “And we’ll start drilling from both the station side and the airport side.” Musk said the goal is to be operational within 16-24 months, but experts caution the project might take more than three years to complete.
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