The Boring Company’s plans of building a high-speed underground transit system connecting downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport has taken a step forward, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel meeting with senior Department of Transportation officials on Monday. The meeting, which lasted for an hour, was held at the DOT headquarters in Washington.
“Mayor Emanuel provided DOT officials with an update on the Chicago Loop project. Chicago reaffirmed that there will be no federal funds involved. All parties agreed to work together and stay in close communication,” a DOT spokesman confirmed with Reuters on Thursday.
The Chicago Mayor met with several senior DOT officials, including Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory and Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan. The discussions reportedly covered several topics, such as the specific type of environmental review the high-speed underground tunnels would require, which transportation agency will oversee the project, and if the department would tap a specific person to oversee the approval of the tunnels’ permits.
The Chicago-O’Hare transit system is the Boring Company’s first high-profile undertaking. According to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the Chicago tunnel, which will be more than 17 miles long, would cost roughly $1 billion to construct. The entire project will be privately funded, with no subsidies from taxpayers. As noted by Elon Musk in a press conference in Chicago, the initial digging on both sides of the planned tunnel could start in as early as three to four months. Musk expects the tunnel to be operational in 18-24 months after the initial digging.
The high-speed underground transit line is an opportunity for the Boring Company to flex its creative muscles and prove to the market that it is a serious player in the transportation industry. Prior to winning the contract in Chicago, the tunneling startup has only been involved in the construction of a test tunnel under the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, as well as a proposed proof-of-concept tunnel that is expected to run across Culver City in CA. With the Chicago-O’Hare project, however, the tunneling startup can ultimately prove that Elon Musk’s concept of an underground transit line is feasible and effective.
Based on the details that have been released about the project thus far, the Boring Co.’s Chicago initiative is set to showcase some impressive technology. The pods that will be used for the tunnels, for example, will be designed and manufactured by Tesla, a company that Musk heads. Each pod is capable of transporting up to 16 passengers at a time at speeds of up to 150 mph, thanks to an eight-wheel design that would be fitted on the sides of the vehicle. Travel time from downtown Chicago to O’Hare airport through the Boring Company’s tunnels is estimated to take around 12 minutes, far shorter than the 30-45 minutes the trip usually takes through conventional modes of transportation.
The Boring Company might be considered as a side project or hobby of Elon Musk, but the potential of the tunneling startup is substantial. Berenberg analyst Alexander Haissl, for one, noted that if the company does finish the Chicago-O’Hare tunnel, it could raise the Boring Company’s valuation to as much as $16 billion.