Chicago Selects Elon Musk’s Boring Co. to Build, Operate Express Transit Line from Downtown to O’Hare Airport

Plans call for electronic vehicles to transport passengers between downtown and the airport in 12 minutes via underground tunnels.

CHICAGO — City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has selected The Boring Company to build and operate a high-speed transit service between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport. Founded by entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Boring plans to transport passengers between O’Hare and Block 37 in the Loop in approximately 12 minutes each way by utilizing electric vehicles that run through new twin underground tunnels.

The project will be funded entirely by the company with no taxpayer subsidy. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the project cost could be anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion.

Boring was one of two final teams selected to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) issued in March by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust. The RFP was seeking a candidate to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an O’Hare Express service. The city will now begin one-on-one contract negotiations with Boring and present the agreement to the city council.

Each electronic vehicle will be able to carry up to 16 passengers and will travel 125 miles per hour.

The RFP required bidders to deliver express service from downtown to O’Hare in 20 minutes or less, cutting more than 50 percent off current travel times. Boring plans to reduce the trip even further to 12 minutes by utilizing autonomous “electric skates” that travel 125 miles per hour. The electric skates are based on the Tesla Model X.

“Bringing Chicago’s economic engines closer together will keep the city on the cutting edge of progress, create thousands of good-paying jobs and strengthen our great city for future generations,” says Emanuel. “This transformative project will help Chicago write the next chapter in our legacy of innovation and invention.”

Each vehicle will carry up to 16 passengers, plus their luggage, and will depart from O’Hare and from Block 37, one of the original 58 blocks of the city, as frequently as every 30 seconds. Boring plans to charge fares below the RFP requirement so that the service should cost less than current taxi and ride-share services.

The company plans to utilize the unfinished underground transit station at Block 37 and create a new station at O’Hare.

During the negotiation phase, Boring will be required to further develop its plans and ensure all safety, construction, financing and operating requirements are met. Overall project costs and a construction timeline will be finalized during this process, but Musk says he’s prepared to begin construction in three to four months, according to local media reports.

Beyond a faster commute to and from the airport, benefits will include mitigating congestion on roadways, fostering economic growth and creating jobs throughout the lifetime of the project, according to Emanuel. Approximately 20,000 airline passengers travel between the airport and the central business district in Chicago each day, with projections of up to 35,000 people by 2045.

The city has also previously unveiled plans to increase O’Hare’s gate capacity by 25 percent and the Chicago Transit Authority is investing $492 million to modernize the Blue Line, the rapid transit line that runs from the airport to downtown.

In addition to Boring and Tesla, Musk’s portfolio of companies includes SpaceX, a private aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company, and Neuralink, a neurotechnology company.

— Kristin Hiller

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