Elon Musk is facing growing scrutiny lately based on his erratic behavior and statements. There are also many recent financial reports regarding Tesla, its company performance, the global market for EVs growing at a slower pace than anticipated and its stock price now returning to where it was in Spring of 2014. This leads to much debate on the performance of each of his companies. His latest endeavor: The Boring Company, which recently won the contract to build the Loop transit system between O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago. Musk tweeted a photo suggesting construction has begun on the ambitious project. But, will this project be a success and can the company deliver on its promise.
In June, Musk and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the high-speed transit system from Block 37 to O’Hare airport, the O’Hare Express. In Musk’s tweet, he posted a photo of a “gantry” for the tunnel boring machine. This gantry will serve as the structure behind the machine’s drilling head, essentially creating and reinforcing the tunnel walls. The photo was taken at the Boring Company’s Hawthorne, CA headquarters, but the structure will be moved to Chicago as soon as the construction is approved.
The Boring Company plans to drill and construct two parallel underground tunnels to link O’Hare and downtown Chicago. The tunnels would then accommodate a fleet of self-guided pods that are propelled electromagnetically. These pods will reach speeds up to 150 miles an hour, cutting travel time to just 12 minutes.
The O’Hare Express will begin construction in three to four months once they secure environmental and regulatory approvals. It is a fairly optimistic timeline, and Musk said the system could be operational within 18 to 24 months.
Taxpayer money is not a requirement to fulfill the project— funding comes entirely from private sources. But the project has its fair share of criticism, as the budget is less than $1 billion, leaving many incredulous given the amount of technology required for the project. The Boring Company says it has reduced the operational costs by paring down the tunnel diameter from 28 to 24 feet.
The Boring Company Is Diversifying
There are hundreds of examples of tunnels being dug in the past. The question at hand is whether Elon Musk and The Boring Company can bring any new technology or technique that is different than what has been done previously! And in order to build the tunnel in Chicago, Musk must raise $1B in funding to dig 18 miles, when others have projected the cost will be $1B per mile.
The company is intent on looking for different applications of the technology. Musk confirmed that they are working on a subterranean network in Los Angeles similar to the O’Hare electric pods. Called the Dugout Loop, this network will have sled-like vessels that cars can park in, and will transport them through the tunnel system like an underground freeway. This subterranean network aims to alleviate road congestion by providing a sustainable alternative to public transport. The Dugout Loop will also transport thousands of people to and from events at Dodger Stadium in just four minutes.
The Boring Company is also proposing to build a high-speed underground public transportation system on the East Coast. This Loop would have parallel tunnels that run through Washington, DC, Baltimore, and New York, with about 15 stations in between. People would travel from DC to Baltimore in just 15 minutes. Like in the Dugout Loop, people would board autonomous electric sleds that could seat between eight to 16 passengers.
Benefits of Underground Tunnels for Chicago
An efficient underground, high-speed transport system will do much good for the city of Chicago. Since the Loop is a sustainable, zero-emissions system, it can help decrease pollution significantly. This is the promise of Loop, and other similar hyperloop technologies.
Also, when designed and constructed properly, tunnels are completely safe during earthquakes. The tunnel moves uniformly with the ground, so there will be no falling debris that could cause damage. It goes without saying that underground tunnels are completely weatherproof.
In addition, constructing these Loop networks is not disruptive to traffic flow on roads. Everything will be beneath the ground. There won’t be any aggravating vibrations and noise affecting people and structures above.
Finally, constructing it is a sustainable initiative. Soil dugout will be converted into bricks that can be used to build the tunnels, as well as other structures.
The Loop could be a benefit to the city. With less traffic and traffic-related accidents on the roads, people can travel more quickly and safely. Thanks to the Boring Company’s ambitious project, Chicago may soon set the blueprint worth following for all other cities and countries keen on creating or upgrading their own subterranean transportation system.