Tunnels would allow for express service from O’Hare to Downtown
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced last week that billionaire Elon Musk’s tunnel boring technology company plans to build and operate an underground express service from Downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport.
The Boring Company plans to transport passengers between O’Hare and Block 37 in the Loop at 108 N. State St. in approximately 12 minutes each way by utilizing electric vehicles or "pods" that travel more than 100 miles per hour in new twin underground tunnels, according to the mayor’s press office.
The planned route travels "straight northwest" from downtown following public way alignments and the tunnels would be under parts of the Northwest Side.
According to published reports, the preliminary route could possibly extend from Block 37 west on Randolph Street, under the Kennedy Expressway northwest, north under Halsted Street and northwest under Milwaukee Avenue, then northwest under Elston and west under Bryn Mawr Avenue. A final route has not been announced.
Each vehicle would carry up to 16 passengers, plus their luggage, and would depart from O’Hare and from Block 37 as frequently as every 30 seconds, according to the press office. The Boring Company plans to charge fares from $20 to $25 per trip, according to reports.
Some have said that the vehicles look like vehicles from the sci-fi film "Minority Report" directed by Steven Spielberg. The project will be funded entirely by Musk’s company with no taxpayer subsidy.
"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," Emanuel said. "This transformative project will help Chicago write the next chapter in our legacy of innovation and invention."
Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) said that she didn’t know the timeline before the express service would be operational but that if the City Council approves the project and permits are issued, that tunnel boring could begin fairly quickly. It was reported that the service could be operational in 3 years.
"Obviously the are some questions to be asked," Laurino said. "But we will have a whole process where the City Council looks at the entire proposal.
"It’s a great idea. It really is. I’m excited. This will give people options to get to Downtown from O’Hare," Laurino said. "I’m guessing there will be two staging areas, one at O’Hare and one Downtown and they will tunnel underneath the city.
"It’s my understanding that it won’t affect the neighborhoods," Laurino said. Laurino said that when a storm water tunnel in her ward that under Foster Avenue was dug, the work didn’t affect the neighborhood.
The Boring Company was one of two teams selected to respond to a Request for Proposals issued in March by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, on behalf of the city, according to a release. The RFP was seeking a respondent to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an O’Hare express service. The city will begin contract negotiations with the Boring Company. Following this negotiation process the agreement will be presented to the City Council.
"We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago," Elon Musk said.
During negotiations, the company will be required to further develop plans and ensure it meets safety, construction, financing and operating requirements, the city said.