Thursday, August 16, 2018
Transportation

Elon Musk to build 125 mph underground transit line serving Chicago O’Hare

Elon Musk has taken on a task perhaps more challenging than launching rockets into space: getting passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Loop in 12 minutes, roughly three to four times as fast as the current taxi journey.

The plan for the "Chicago Express Loop," announced early Thursday by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Musk’s tunneling firm, calls for the construction of an underground tunnel with concrete tracks on which "skates" - individual vehicles built on a modified Tesla X chassis - would carry 8 to 16 passengers at between 125 to 150 mph from one of the world’s busiest airports underneath some of the country’s most congested roads. O’Hare is roughly 17 miles from the heart of the city.

Musk’s firm, The Boring Co., won a four-company competition to build and operate the underground loop. The skates, according to a fact-sheet from the company, would likely run every 30 seconds, 20 hours per day, the company said. The skates would be battery-powered and "autonomous," of course, meaning no driver.

The project will be entirely privately financed, Musk’s company said. The operating firm will keep the revenue collected from passengers and any revenue from concessions. The fare would be about $25, less than the average $45 taxi trip but more than Chicago’s current Blue Line route from O’Hare. No opening day for the Chicago Express Loop was offered. It should also be noted that historically, big transportation projects almost never finish on time or on budget and sometimes are never completed at all.

Indeed, the shell of the station to be used for Musk’s loop already exists, deep below the spot known as Block 37 between State and Dearborn streets and Randolph. It’s been sitting empty and unused for more than a decade - known as part of the "subway to nowhere"- a testament to dreams of rapid journeys to O’Hare the city couldn’t ultimately afford, for which it is still paying.

But in interviews with Chicago newspapers, Emanuel expressed great faith in the ability of Musk, father of the Tesla and SpaceX, to deliver at a cost of roughly $1 billion or less.

"We’re taking a bet on a guy who doesn’t like to fail - and his resources," he told the Chicago Tribune. "There are a bunch of Teslas on the road. He put SpaceX together. He’s proven something. The risk - with no financial risk - is I’m betting on a guy who has proven in space, auto and now a tunnel, that he can innovate and create something of the future," he said. "Given his track record, we are taking his reputation and saying, ‘This is a guy in two other transportation modes who has not failed.’ That’s what we’re doing."

"We’re talking about a Tesla-in-a-tunnel," Chicago Deputy Mayor Robert Rivkin told the Chicago Sun-Times. As for the risk of an unproven technology, Rivkin told the paper that the "only real risk to the city is that it doesn’t get built. . . . It’s not much of a risk to have a partially-built, essentially cave-in-proof sealed tunnel 30-to-60 feet underground in some portion of the city."

"Getting from downtown to O’Hare or O’Hare to downtown is a race against time," Emanuel told the paper. "We’re gonna give people a leg up."

The Boring Co. also has big plans for the Washington area. Maryland’s Department of Transportation gave conditional approval to the construction of a tunnel from Baltimore to Washington for a super-high-speed transportation system, The Washington Post reported in October.

A news conference is scheduled for later Thursday to discuss the plans.

Comments
Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

TAMPA — The group behind a sales tax transportation initiative used hundreds of volunteers and spent at least $550,000 on a petition-gathering firm in a frantic six-week dash to qualify for the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.That may have been the ea...
Published: 08/11/18
Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isn’t asking for it

Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isn’t asking for it

The vendor responsible for recent problems with the SunPass tolling system could be on the hook to pay the state at least $1.7 million based on a review of documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.But the Florida Department of Transportation hasn’t ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

TAMPA — As if there wasn’t enough riding on the mid-term elections, a plan to raise the sales tax to pay for transportation projects is now set to go before Hillsborough voters.The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections confirmed Wednesday that ...
Published: 08/08/18

Flooding closes WPA Road in Brooksville; Rackley, other roads still closed

BROOKSVILLE — Flooding on Wednesday led the Hernando County Department of Public Works to close WPA Road just south of its intersection with Mondon Hill Road.More than a foot of water is covering part of the road, east of downtown Brooksville, accord...
Published: 08/08/18
Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

TAMPA — If the long-awaited commuter ferry service between south Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base ever happens, it will likely be without federal money. Leaders of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority acknowledged Mon...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

TAMPA — Brightline, the firm behind the passenger rail system between Miami and West Palm Beach, doesn’t yet know if it will win a state bid to build a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando.But the company is already scouting sites for a ter...
Published: 08/04/18
Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

People who travel from Pinellas County to southern Hillsborough using the interstates may want to build in some extra time.The Florida Department of Transportation has shut down the ramp that shuttles motorists from southbound Interstate 275 in Manat...
Published: 08/01/18
Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Mark Hubbard, the owner of Hubbard’s Marina on John’s Pass, has watched two decades of uncertainty over the future of waterborne transportation play out in Tampa Bay. Just when it seems that Tampa and St. Petersburg have figured out how ...
Updated one month ago
One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Here’s why.

One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Here’s why.

When Florida wanted to consolidate its tolling systems into what drivers now know as SunPass, regional expressway agencies in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami were ready to work together. But when Xerox spinoff Conduent State & Local Solutions was chosen as...
Updated one month ago
Uber says ride app funnels $1.1 billion a year into Florida’s economy

Uber says ride app funnels $1.1 billion a year into Florida’s economy

There’s no question that Uber has changed the way Floridians travel and spend money, but until now it’s been hard to quantify just how much. A new study paid for by the popular ride share app says it has contributed about $1.1 billion an...
Updated one month ago