The Boring Company’s Chicago "X Line" Faces a Tight Deadline

The Boring Company and the mayor of Chicago are under pressure to get the company’s planned tunnel through the city council as soon as possible, a report this week revealed. Elon Musk’s tunnel-digging venture is making progress on its plan to connect the city airport to downtown, but mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement that he won’t seek a third term has started a countdown timer.

The firm announced the project at a joint press conference with Musk and Emanuel back in June, describing a tunnel that connects O’Hare Airport to Block 37 downtown around 17 miles away, dubbed the “X Line.” Three months after the conference, though, Emanuel announced his plan not to contest the February 2019 election. The new mayor will take office in May 2019, giving the groups a window of five months to get the project cleared with the council, avoiding the prospect of his successor scrapping the tunnel. “It’s a very quick timetable that they’re under, but not impossible,” Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, told the Chicago Tribune.

Godot Boring Company Boring Machine
The Boring Company's Boring Machine.

See more: How Elon Musk Wants to Dig Tunnels on the Cheap Under Los Angeles

The tunnel could be the first test for Musk’s venture, founded just two years prior over his frustration with Los Angeles traffic. It will use electric skates designed to move up to 16 people at once at speeds of up to 150 mph. Musk aims to shakeup the tunnel-digging industry with improved technology, like faster tunnel boring machines with triple the power of regular machines. The Chicago project is set to cost $1 billion, cheaper than similar projects.

Fortunately, progress is looking good. The project is now partway through its environmental assessment, after which it will be sent to the council. Tom Budescu, managing director of finance at the Chicago Infrastructure Trust that’s managing the contract, said at an Infrastructure Trust meeting this week that “we’re feeling very confident that the project agreement is getting to the point of refinement…we’re getting pretty far along in that process.”

As for when the tunnel could open, that’s still unclear. Musk stated at the conference that construction could start in three to four months, assuming regulatory approval is cleared. Musk claimed that the tunnel could open within 18 to 24 months, but is unlikely to take longer than three years.

Related video: Elon Musk Shows The Boring Company’s Working Car Elevator