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Chicago Transit O'Hare Station Blue Line

Two Firms Trying to Win Right to Connect Chicago Loop to O’Hare With High-Speed Service

Two groups are vying to design, build, finance and operate an express mass transportation service to connect downtown Chicago with O’Hare airport.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office announced this week that Elon Musk’s The Boring Company and a partnership called O’Hare Xpress LLC are the finalists in the bidding process for the project, which the city wants to provide a trip to O’Hare in under 20 minutes – about a third of the time it takes on the city’s Blue Line train now.

The Boring Company, Musk’s tunnelling and transportation company, is working on hyperloop technology, but the Chicago downtown to O’Hare system would be what the company calls “Loop” technology.  Musk has said the technology used in Chicago, if the company gets the bid, would likely be similar to hyperloop, but without a vacuum, because the cars wouldn’t need to move as fast. The company hasn’t said whether cars would move on rails or not. The Boring Co. has also proposed a system between Washington D.C. and Baltimore that would move passengers in “electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. ” That’s called the DC-Baltimore Loop, but it’s not clear whether the Chicago system would be the same, or if not, how it would differ.

O’Hare Xpress, a joint project by several firms, hasn’t made details of its proposal public. City officials have said, however, that O’Hare Xpress’ plan is for more traditional high-speed rail. Part of the O’Hare Xpress consortium is JLC, an infrastructure fund whose founders include Magic Johnson.

The city said the two groups were chosen from an original four entrants based on their ability to move forward on the project without any money from taxpayers – a requirement of the project.

“Strengthening connections between Chicago’s economic engines will drive our economy into the future, build on the city’s legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come,” Emanuel said in a press release. “Today, we have two teams that have the ability to get the job done and create an express connection between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport without a taxpayer subsidy.”

The service could run above or below ground, and the city wants a train that runs every 15 minutes most of the day. The cost to ride the service should be less than the cost of a taxi or rideshare, the city’s specifications say.

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