The Boring Company has ambitious plans for the Chicago-O’Hare high-speed transit tunnel, but political machinations within the city might end up putting the entire project at risk.
Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas, for one, noted in a statement to The Verge that he was initially optimistic about The Boring Company’s tunnels, which are expected to offer a smooth, quick ride. Villegas was able to sample some of the tunneling startup’s technology when he attended the Boring Company’s opening party of the Hawthorne test tunnel last December, and based on his experience, he was not impressed.
“It wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be. It certainly felt too experimental for someone to invest a billion dollars in,” he said.
The Boring Company won the bid for the Chicago-O’Hare project partly due to Elon Musk’s assurance that the construction of the high-speed tunnel, which he estimated will cost $1 billion to complete, will not require taxpayer money. Instead, Musk aims to raise funding for the project through private investors. This idea has caught the ire of Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who expressed his doubts about the project and Musk himself in a statement.
“I’d be shocked if there was any traction moving forward. To me, it was always a pipe dream, a flight of fancy. But my opinion of it has gotten even worse since I’ve been reading all of these details in the media, a lot of stories that paint a lot of doubt on Musk’s ability to deliver this thing. If you look at Elon Musk’s career—he comes off as a grifter,” Ramirez-Rosa claimed.
Mayoral hopeful and former Chicago Public Schools chairman Gery Chico took a similar stance on the project, stating that the Boring Company’s “goofy” tunnel concept will “die on its own.” Another mayoral candidate, Paul Vallas, was even more aggressive. In a statement to the Chicago Tribune, he declared “I’d kill it. I can’t wait to kill it.” Vallas later adopted a less violent stance on the project, stating that he “would [be] happy to be proven wrong—as long as taxpayers are not on the hook for any costs and Mr. Musk fully indemnifies the city for an unexpected damage his big dig might cause.”
In a way, some of the reservations about the Boring Company’s Chicago project appears to be rooted in misinformation. Concerns about taxpayer spending, for one, have stubbornly been present despite Musk’s commitment to fully fund the high-speed tunnel’s construction without public funds. The description of Musk coming off as a “grifter” also echoes much of the accusations thrown towards the CEO by skeptics like Tesla bears, who are passionate about seeing Elon Musk and his companies fail.
It should be noted that while The Boring Company’s Chicago tunnel is seeing a lot of pushback from skeptics, the project still has some supporters among the city’s officials. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, for one, stated that “We would not like to see this go to waste.” Mayoral candidate Bill Daley also took a friendly stance on the project, stating that “Chicago shouldn’t shy away from innovation.”