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Boring Company wins Chicago express transit tunnel deal

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has been chosen to design, build, finance, operate and maintain Chicago’s proposed underground O’Hare transit express.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel revealed the news in a tweet saying that he was delighted to be announcing the selection of The Boring Company to deliver an express service from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport. The journeys are planned to take 12 minutes in electric vehicles in underground tunnels.

The project will be funded by the company with no taxpayer subsidy, the mayor added. 



In March this year The Boring Company was one of two bidders to the selected to tender for the O’Hare Xpress.

The shortlisted bidders, Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress, made up of Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, JLC Infrastructure, Mott MacDonald and First Transit, were two of the four bidders who responded to a request for qualification (RFQ) issued late last year.

At the time Chicago’s city mayor Emanuel said: “We have two teams that have the ability to get the job done and create an express connection between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport without a taxpayer subsidy. Strengthening connections between Chicago’s economic engines will drive our economy into the future, build on the city’s legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come.

“Of the submissions received, these two teams represent the best potential partners to deliver this express service, which will be a key part of Chicago’s continued economic growth.”

Plans for the scheme specify that the O’Hare Express Service should include a downtown station, an airport station as well as maintenance facilities. Travel corridors may be above or below ground. With travel times of fewer than 20 minutes or less with service frequency of at least every 15 minutes for the majority of the day, and fares “must be reasonable” and less than the cost of current taxi.

Any proposal must also address how potential impacts on existing transportation systems and the environment would be avoided or minimised.

Arup director infrastructure London Tim Chapman thinks that Musk’s “novel transport solution” will go some way to solve the age old problem of transporting the public, but warns of the notorious soft lake soils of Chicago.

“I am reminded of the construction of the Chicago subway in its soft lake soils in the 1940s that led to huge ground movements and much building damage, and ultimately the creation of the observational method by Peck,” he said.

”I’m hopeful that these new tunnels will be notable for the great new transport system they enclose rather than the impact on property damage.”

Although cost estimates for the project are not yet known, the transit will be funded solely by project revenues and financed entirely by the winning bidder.

The current total daily number or air passengers travelling between O’Hare Airport and the Chicago central business district is approximately 20,000. This is forecast to grow to at least 35,000 daily air passengers by 2045.

No timeline for construction has been announced. 

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