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Elon Musk’s Boring Company Chicago ‘loop’ project moves forward with some urgency

Elon Musk’s Boring Company is moving forward with some urgency with its Chicago transit system between the city’s downtown area and the O-Hare airport as Rahm Emanuel, who has been pushing for the project, is leaving city hall.

It can be difficult to follow all of the Boring Company’s different projects and products.

Despite being a fairly young startup, it’s working a flurry of different systems from actual boring machines to electric skates to pressurized pods to vacuum tunnels.

In Chicago, The Boring Company will be building a ‘Loop’, which they describe on their website:

“Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers, or a single passenger vehicle.”

In order to deploy this system, the company will have to dig the tunnels and deploy the infrastructure to move those “autonomous electric skates” inside the tunnels.

The project has some detractors who don’t see it as feasible. The Boring Company says that it can do it for about $1 billion, which is a fraction of what a 17-mile tunnel would generally cost.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been the biggest supporter of the project, but he is not seeking reelection and he will be exiting city hall in May.

In order to secure the project, The Boring Company needs to get the ball rolling far enough by the time he exits in case they don’t have support at the municipal level by then.

Tom Budescu, managing director of finance at the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, says that they are about “midway through an environmental assessment.”

He said in a meeting on Tuesday (via The Chicago Tribune):

“We’re feeling very confident that the project agreement is getting to the point of refinement,” Budescu said at an Infrastructure Trust meeting on Tuesday. “We’re getting pretty far along in that process.” He said that Boring Co. was working with federal and local officials, including the Federal Highway Administration and the Chicago Department of Transportation, on the environmental review mandated by U.S. law. Because the tunnel is likely to go under an interstate roadway, the Federal Highway Administration is overseeing the review.

The project is a little behind Musk’s aggressive timeline – though the CEO said that it was only an estimate.

Earlier this year, he said that they aim to start drilling as soon as they receive regulatory and environmental approval, which he saw happening in just 3 to 4 months, and Musk wants the Loop to be ready “within 18 to 24 months”, but he said that it could take longer though it’s “unlikely” going to take more than 3 years.

That said, they are not simply waiting until they get approval before starting the work.

In July, the Boring Company unveiled the first image of the gantry system for Chicago’s Loop and the tunnel that they will be unveiling in Los Angeles next week is going to serve as a proof-of-concept for the company’s technology.

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