Elon Musk ’s The Boring Company has won the concession to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an express transportation system linking downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on 14 June.
A source familiar said the project is expected to cost less than USD 1bn. It will be 100% privately funded with no taxpayer support, according to the city, which also stipulated that the project must be funded solely through project-specific revenues, such as fares and advertising.
In a press conference today (14 June), Musk said the tunnel drilling could begin in three to four months – both from the station side and the airport – if it receives all the necessary environmental permits in time.
When asked how he plans to raise almost USD 1bn, Musk simply remarked that he has not had trouble raising money historically. “Between my first companies… I probably raised [funds] in the order of USD 20bn,” he said. “And I feel like the economic case is quite compelling. I don’t see any obstacles to that.”
The company did not respond to questions regarding specific financing plans.
Musk also emphasized that the project would undergo rigorous safety qualification processes before putting large numbers of people on board.
The Boring Company proposes to build a high-speed underground transportation system that will comprise so-called electric skates, a platform on wheels propelled by multiple electric motors. Each skate, holding eight to 16 passengers, would travel at 125-150 miles per hour.
The company said its system can transport passengers from the airport to downtown in 12 minutes; it takes roughly an hour on existing public transportation.
A city spokesperson said contract negotiations will soon be underway. While there is no target date on finalizing the contract, the spokesperson said it will probably take place as soon as possible, noting that “neither the mayor nor Elon [Musk] is very patient.” Construction is expected to begin within a year and will likely be a multi-year process, he added. Musk said during the press conference that construction should take 18 to 24 months, likely not exceeding three years.
The exact cost, length of the concession and the construction period will be determined during contract negotiations. The final agreement will have to be presented to the City Council, according to the city’s statement.
Fare prices have also not been finalized; it will likely be less than half the typical price of taxis or ride-share services, which ranges from USD 40 to USD 50, but higher than the Blue Line, which costs USD 5 one-way, according to the company.
Musk’s company was one of two respondents to the project RFP. It was chosen over a consortium comprising Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, JLC Infrastructure, Mott MacDonald and First Transit.