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Elon Musk’s Boring Co. chosen as final two in Chicago-O’Hare tunnel project bid

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has outlasted all but one of its competitors in its bid to create a downtown Chicago-O’Hare tunnel system. All that remains between what could potentially be the tunneling startup’s first big contract is O’Hare Xpress LLC — a consortium that includes participants from Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, JLC Infrastructure, Mott MacDonald, and First Transit.

Chicago’s proposed O’Hare transport system initially caught the eye of four major groups. So far, however, two of the teams which expressed interest in the project have backed down due to their inability to complete the system without requiring public subsidies. In a statement on Tuesday to the Chicago Sun-Times, Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin admitted that the downtown to O’Hare line is a very ambitious initiative. Rivkin, however, noted that The Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress LLC have so far remained steadfast in their bids for the project.

“We set forth a pretty ambitious proposal for fast service from downtown to O’Hare at no public cost and two significant companies and consortia have responded that they can do it. One is proposing a more traditional rapid rail service. The other is proposing a tunnel service. Cost components will be different. But the city won’t be on the hook for any of it,” Rivkin said.

Despite outlasting two of its rivals on the project, Elon Musk’s tunneling startup still has a long way to go before it can be awarded the contract for the transport system, especially since Chicago Mayor Emanuel has placed a series of challenging requirements for the project.

For one, Emanuel noted that there should be no taxpayer support to fund the construction of the transport line. The system has to be fast too, with trips taking only 20 minutes or less between downtown Chicago and O’Hare. The system must also be able to operate for 20 hours straight every day, with 15-minute intervals between each trip. On top of all this, the Chicago Mayor wants the assurance that the system would be reasonably priced.

For Deputy Mayor Rivkin, these demands, while admittedly ambitious, are required to create a transport system that could support the upcoming expansion of O’Hare airport.

“O’Hare is not standing still. If the City Council agrees with our vision, O’Hare will be growing. And as O’Hare grows, the capacity to access O’Hare needs to grow,” Rivkin said.

The Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress LLC are required to submit their bids for the downtown Chicago to O’Hare route on May 18, following the city’s release of a request for proposals (RFP) this coming Friday. The city will be determining which team would be taking on the project after reviewing The Boring Co. and O’Hare Xpress’ proposals.

As we noted in a previous report, Rivkin’s predecessor on the city government, former Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, expressed his interest in Elon Musk’s vision of an affordable, underground transportation system. Koch and Musk reportedly even met to discuss the prospect of using The Boring Co.’s tunnels for Chicago. 

“It was fascinating, really interesting. We’re going to try to see if they can make it work here. It depends on the cost, but I’m as intrigued as I’ve been (with anything) for a while,” Koch said.

Elon Musk’s Boring Co. chosen as final two in Chicago-O’Hare tunnel project bid

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