Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Boring Company is getting the go-ahead to build a multibillion-dollar express transit system between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, city officials said.
Mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman told GeekWire in a tweet tonight that the Boring Company won the bid. “Consider it confirmed,” he said.
In a follow-up statement, the Boring Company said its aim will be “to alleviate soul-destroying traffic by constructing safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly public transportation systems.”
Musk’s 18-month-old company beat out a bid from O’Hare Xpress LLC, a consortium that included the Mott MacDonald engineering firm and JLC Infrastructure, a venture backed by former basketball star Magic Johnson.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Musk and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were due to make the official announcement on Thursday.
We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago! https://t.co/cL1e0YfZSw
— The Boring Company (@boringcompany) June 14, 2018
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel noted Musk’s experience as the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and said he was willing to bet on Musk’s “track record in this next step with no money and all upside.”
“We have a person in Elon Musk who started an electric car company from nothing, and started a space company from nothing, and he has proven that he doesn’t like to fail,” Emanuel said.
Details of the deal are to be worked out in the months ahead.
The system would take the form of an underground tunnel system between O’Hare and downtown Chicago’s Block 37 complex. Electric-powered “skates,” modeled on the Tesla Model X electric-car design, would travel at speeds of up to 150 mph. Each skate could carry up to 16 passengers, or a single passenger vehicle, on a trip that would take 12 minutes. Skates could leave the station as frequently as every 30 seconds, the Boring Company said in its overview of the system.
Fares would amount to $20 to $25 a ride, the Tribune reported. In comparison, Chicago’s “L” trains make the trip in 40 minutes or more, for a $5 fare.
Under the arrangement with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, the Boring Company would bear the cost of building and operating the system, with no public expenditure. The company would recoup its expenses through fares, advertising and other private revenue sources.
Musk’s company is also working on tunnel networks in the Los Angeles area and Maryland. In both those locales, the company has faced some resistance on environmental or regulatory grounds.
The Boring Company says it can build tunnels at a quarter of the traditional cost, and build them more quietly, in part by making them half the diameter of traditional transit tunnels (14 feet or less, as opposed to the traditional 28 feet for a one-lane tunnel). Another factor behind the cost reduction would be the use of a new type of tunnel boring machine that moves at least an order of magnitude more quickly than the machines currently in use.
Update for 8:44 a.m. PT June 14: This story has been updated with further details from the Boring Company.