Chicago to O’Hare RFP: Musk’s loop concept vs. traditional rail transit

Written by Kyra Senese, managing editor
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Two teams have been chosen to compete for work to design, build, finance and operate Chicago’s O’Hare Express operating system.
Daniel Schwen

Two teams have been chosen to compete for work to design, build, finance and operate Chicago's O'Hare Express operating system.  


Elon Musk’s The Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress LLC will be able to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) that is set to be issued March 23 by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT).

The project is intended to deliver express service from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in 20 minutes or less, cutting current travel times along that route by more than half.

“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,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “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 CIT said it chose the two companies to proceed to the next phase of the procurement process based on their abilities to produce the project without requiring any public funding.

The Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress LLC, which consists of Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, JLC Infrastructure, Mott MacDonald and First Transit, are two of the four groups that responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) issued late last year.

Responses to the RFP are due May 18, officials said.

“Of the submissions received, these two teams represent the best potential partners to deliver this express service, which will be a key part of Chicago’s continued economic growth,” Chicago Treasurer and CIT Chair Kurt Summers said. “The CIT’s role as a specialized resource to the City focused on infrastructure financing and development involvement makes it the clear choice to take a lead as we seek a partner for this truly transformative and historic project.”

The RFP calls for a downtown station, an ORD station and maintenance facilities. Travel corridors may be built above or below ground, officials said.

Travel times of 20 minutes or less with service frequency occurring at least every 15 minutes for most of the day are two major goals of the projected service. The city also seeks premium service fares that remain below than the cost of current taxi and rideshare services.

Proposals also must address how potential impacts on existing transportation systems and the environment would be avoided or minimized, the city said.

Cost estimates for the project are not yet known, but the city said the RFQ and RFP mandate that the O’Hare Express Service be funded only by project-specific revenues such as fares and advertising, and that they be entirely funded by the developer.

The current total daily number of passengers traveling between ORD and the Chicago Central Business District is currently about 20,000. The city said it expects that number to grow to at least 35,000 daily passengers by 2045.

Categories: OFF Track Maintenance, Rapid Transit/Light Rail