Elon Musk’s high speed transit resume exists mostly on paper — with two major projects on the East and West coasts yet to get off the ground.
The insider faithful say it’s not an engineering challenge, but a challenge in obtaining the local, state and federal permits to construct Musk’s vision of whisking people underground at high speeds.
He’s doing something new for which there is no template.
His West Coast project: A 2.7 mile test tunnel that Musk aims to build in West L.A. along Sepulveda Boulevard.
One headwind it’s currently facing is a lawsuit filed by two neighborhood groups concerned with the city of Los Angeles’ proposal to fast-track the project by exempting it from environmental review, the Los Angeles times reported.
Musk’s East Coast Project: Building parallel tunnels between Washington D.C. and Baltimore.
Musk’s Boring Company has yet to begin moving earth on either project.
What he is able to point to — in terms of transit accomplishments — is another test tunnel that’s currently under construction about 12 miles southwest of Los Angeles, adjacent to Musk’s SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Last month, Musk sent out a video of a portion of the tunnel in use.
The lack of concrete transit credentials shouldn’t wear on the nerves of Chicagoans concerned about the feasibility of Musk’s plan to build a high speed transit tunnel connecting O’Hare Airport and the Loop, said Northwestern University Civil Engineering Professor Hani Mahmassani.
After all, Musk and his company are taking on all the risk by picking up the tab, Mahmassani said.
“I’m really not that concerned that there are not a bunch of similar projects already built,” Mahmassani said. “If that were the case, nothing new would ever get done, and we might never have had the L train that carries people around today.
“From a tech perspective, this project in Chicago would be a significant achievement, but it’s not like reaching Mars,” he said.
“If we were asked to pay for it, we would probably be more risk averse. But if successful, it could be a very major success for the city and create a sense of can do-ness that the city has been known for historically,” Mahmassani said.