First Pictures Releasd of Downtown to O’Hare Electric Skate Loop Track

Last month the tech world was all atwitter over the announcement that billionaire socialite Bruce Wayne… er… Elon Musk would scratch Chicago’s itch for a better way between downtown and O’Hare airport than the CTA’s Blue Line or IDOT’s Kennedy Expressway.

Back then, you could color us skeptical.  We’ve seen this promise time and time again.  The closest Chicago ever came was a decade ago when the CTA was given a deep underground high speed rail station when Block 37 was built.  Today, that station lays dark and abandoned — a bucket list item for teen-age urban explorers.

Elon Musk and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the bowels of Block 37 (via Office of the Mayor of Chicago)

Elon Musk and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the bowels of Block 37 (via Office of the Mayor of Chicago)

Then in June we got a whiff of Musk in that deep deep crypt when he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel exchanged gifts (a Chicago flag for Musk, a Boring ball cap for hizzonor) and announced a new way to get from hence to thence.

The mayor repeatedly called it “The X,” though Musk’s Boring Company calls it “The Chicago Express Loop.”  “Loop” is what Boring calls its system that sends modified Tesla SUV’s (“skates”) whizzing down a concrete tunnel at speeds up to 150 miles an hour.  And now, we finally get to see a real photograph, not a public relations rendering:

Prototype of the Chicago Express Loop track (via Boring Company)

Prototype of the Chicago Express Loop track (via The Boring Company)

It’s not the most exciting thing yet.  It doesn’t light up.  It doesn’t actually transport anyone.  And it’s located in California.  But this photograph released while you were on your Independence Day vacation is what is proposed to be put deep beneath the streets of Chicago.  Think of it as looking down the length of a CTA subway tunnel.

To illustrate that point, here’s a video of an actual Tesla SUV being electrically propelled down a concrete tunnel by the Boring Company.

While all of this looks very Wright Brothers right now, Mr. Musk has a goal of starting to drill his tunnel from both the O’Hare side and the Block 37 side simultaneously in the fourth quarter of this year.  A very ambitious timetable, indeed.  But this is a man who makes his money hauling secret packages into space for government agencies, and selling toy flame throwers to the public. If you think all of that was improbable, remember this is perhaps the only man in history to describe Chicago’s bureaucracy as “small.”

And maybe audacity is the key to getting to O’Hare in 12 minutes.  When your goal is to shoot dozens of electric passenger pods beneath Chicago at an average speed of 79MPH, without using any taxpayer money, and while charging somewhere between $2.25 and $60 per ride, then things like setting up a TSA security checkpoint underneath an urban shopping mall seem pretty easy.  And when the things that other people consider hard are the easy things on your checklist, doing what seems impossible comes naturally.

When the O'Hare announcement was made, 90% of the online coverage used renderings of "skates" with "LAX TERMINAL 2" signs in the windows. Here's a proper "O'HARE AIRPORT" version. (Via The Boring Company)

When the O’Hare announcement was made, 90% of the online coverage used renderings of “skates” with “LAX TERMINAL 2” signs in the windows. Here’s a proper “O’HARE AIRPORT” version. (Via The Boring Company)



Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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