Boring Company Chicago to O'Hare

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Boring Company Chicago to O'Hare
Posted by Ed Kyle on Friday, June 15, 2018 1:38 PM

On June 14, 2018, Chicago announced that Elon Musk's Boring Company had won rights to build a transit system of sorts between downtown and O'Hare airport.  The system will consist of battery powered vehicles named "Skates" or "Pods", each capable of carrying up to 16 people, running at 100+ mph speeds within 14 foot diameter tunnels.  It was claimed that the 17-18 mile distance would be covered in 12 minutes.

What does this have to do with railroading?  The Boring Company has used an interesting battery powered narrow gauge locomotive to pull muck trains out of its Los Angeles test tunnels.  The locomotive was re-powered with Tesla-based batteries and motors.  Perhaps Elon Musk will be inspired to further investigate possibilities in of rail business!

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, June 15, 2018 11:40 PM

lets see.  What has it cost Seattle to bore a mile of tunnel for its light rail ?  There would of course the need for 2 tunnels for return trips, cross connections for safe emergency exits. shafts for emergency egress to the surface.  Quite a bit we can imagine.  Then of course Seattle is almost all soil and Chicago is underlaid with rock.  Most close to the surface.  Just look at all its rock quarries.  How does that increase costs ?

How many years has the Goddard base tunnel been under construction.?  Of course the Chicago tunnels could be started at various locations at the same time if and only if somehow multiple TBMs could be built ?   LOL

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Posted by Ed Kyle on Saturday, June 16, 2018 9:33 AM

blue streak 1

lets see.  What has it cost Seattle to bore a mile of tunnel for its light rail ?  There would of course the need for 2 tunnels for return trips, cross connections for safe emergency exits. shafts for emergency egress to the surface.  Quite a bit we can imagine.  Then of course Seattle is almost all soil and Chicago is underlaid with rock.  Most close to the surface.  Just look at all its rock quarries.  How does that increase costs ?

How many years has the Goddard base tunnel been under construction.?  Of course the Chicago tunnels could be started at various locations at the same time if and only if somehow multiple TBMs could be built ?   LOL

 

The plan is for tunneling to begin at each end (downtown and at O'Hare), so two or more machines and muck train sets will be needed.  The Boring Company estimated a $1 billion total cost and 2-3 year construction time, both of which seem remarkably optimistic.  But keep in mind that this "Loop" system is not rail-based.  It won't need rails, or a distributed power supply system for trains.  It is just relatively small tunnels (only 14 feet diameter, much smaller than rail tunnels) down which fast battery-powered mini-bus size vehicles will travel.  18 miles in 12 minutes they say.

 - Ed Kyle

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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, June 16, 2018 10:26 AM

Here is a link to the project page on The Boring Company's website: https://www.boringcompany.com/chicago/

I can't see how the pictured skate fit into a 14 ft diameter tunnel.

There is another challenge I see. A high-speed vehicle in a tunnel moves in front of it a significant pressure wave. The smaller the tunnel diameter the more air gets moved, the higher the resistance and the power need. Larger tunnel diameters and the right vehicle design would allow air to get out of the way and to flow along the vehicle.

Will be interesting to see how The Boring Company will solve this. There are reasons why HSR tunnel have diameters of about 30+ ft. Therefore the railcars have to be pressure-tight to avoid ear pain. Nevertheless you realize the entrance into a tunnel in your ears.

The question how many TBM to use is a question of time and costs. One Herrenknecht TBM for the Arrowhead East and West Tunnels cost about $9 million.
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Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, June 16, 2018 3:01 PM

What I find highly irresponsible of this entire project is that it was approved with no real working proof of concept.     I hope the taxpayer is protected because I do not share the faith the City of Chicago does in Elon Musk.   Nor have any of his past cost estimates been close to anything approaching a ball park figure.     So huge yellow flare on this project I hope taxpayer money is protected here.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, June 16, 2018 3:15 PM

CMStPnP

What I find highly irresponsible of this entire project is that it was approved with no real working proof of concept.     I hope the taxpayer is protected because I do not share the faith the City of Chicago does in Elon Musk.   Nor have any of his past cost estimates been close to anything approaching a ball park figure.     So huge yellow flare on this project I hope taxpayer money is protected here.

 

Supposedly taxpayers' outlay is none, as the financing is claimed to be private (according to the Musk website).  This is/was a major selling point.

I suspect Musk is using this a promotional device for more such projects, so would be happy with less than breaking even, if it works.

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Posted by cx500 on Saturday, June 16, 2018 5:05 PM

blue streak 1
Then of course Seattle is almost all soil and Chicago is underlaid with rock. Most close to the surface. Just look at all its rock quarries. How does that increase costs ?

I cannot answer your question, but the two materials each have their own advantages.  Obviously soil is easier for digging, but then needs immediate support to prevent it continuing to collapse down from the roof.  Waterflow through sand and gravel strata can also pose major challenges.  They can be solved, but at a cost.

Rock is a harder material for digging, but in general is self supporting.  In the longer term lining may be desirable but that can be done when and if needed.  That makes the boring process simpler and safer.  The lining is also simpler since it does not have to be part of the structural support.  All rock is not equal, so that will also have a bearing on construction methods and cost, just as in soil.

All I am saying is that I don't know whether it will increase costs, as you seem to expect.  Tunneling is expensive, whatever the conditions, and any difference may not be that significant.

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Posted by erikem on Saturday, June 16, 2018 5:45 PM

From the book "Forty Feet Below": the soil under Chicago is a blue clay, relative easy to dig through, but will need support placed quickly. I seem to recall that bedrock is really deep in that area.

The ideal material for tunneling may be limetsone, strong enough to be self supporting and soft enough for easy digging.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Sunday, June 17, 2018 8:46 AM

erikem

From the book "Forty Feet Below": the soil under Chicago is a blue clay, relative easy to dig through, but will need support placed quickly. I seem to recall that bedrock is really deep in that area.

The ideal material for tunneling may be limetsone, strong enough to be self supporting and soft enough for easy digging.

 

Various ways it has been done in Chicago.

As to the blue clay, there are many clays in and around Chicago.
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_MANUSCRIPTS/illinois/cookIL2012/Cook_IL.pdf

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, June 18, 2018 11:16 AM

CMStPnP
What I find highly irresponsible of this entire project is that it was approved with no real working proof of concept.

I agree. And even the concept seems quite different from what he proposes regarding tunneling.
Vision video: https://vimeo.com/259707751

I don't see how this fits with "proof of process" tunnel The Boring Company is building LA with 12 ft inner diameter. According to The Guardian the Tesla Models S and X won't fit: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/may/09/elon-musk-the-boring-company-tunnels-dont-fit-tesla

I'm still looking for tunnels that cost 1 billion per tunnel mile outside New York.

I found a few but the costs are misleading. The given cost are for complete projects mostly including two tunnels and a number of station. So how expensive is a mile of tunnel really and why.

I found the Portland OR CSO tunnels. The 3.5 mile, 14' i.d./16.5 o.d West tunnel cost $278 million to build including a pump station: https://www.tunneltalk.com/Portland-CSO-Sep11-Sewer-Project-shortlisted-for-award.php

That is $80 million per mile in demanding geology.

When I look at the reference page of Herrenknecht, the German TBM manufacturer, for tunnels in soft soil below 17' o.d., I get the feeling that The Boring Company is considering to re-invent the wheel. https://www.herrenknecht.com/en/references/references-tunnelling.html#geology=1&diameterMax=5250

If you are interested in details of different types of TBM the Herrenknecht website has them: https://www.herrenknecht.com/en/products/core-products/tunnelling/single-shield-tbm.html

Each type contains a rendering that can be zoomed in and then describes the important parts of the TBM.

If it were so easy to increase power to speed up the boring. The geology determines how fast you can bore without consequences at the surface.

In soft soil one needs to grout the gap between shield and the smaller diameter liner. Curing takes some time.

In hard rock you need a minimum pressure to destroy the rock, but on the other hand not much ore you have to exchange the cutting wheels too often. And you need to power wedge the TBM into the excavated tunnel so it can apply pressure on the cutterhead. This process might light the propelling force.

For me it seems unlikely that The Boring Company can accelerate to 14 times today speed as told on their website.

Tunneling 17' o.d. is already in the ballpark of one tenth of the lamented $1 billion/mile.

Sounds like a lot of air. But it is Elon Musk so we'll have to wait and see.
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Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Monday, June 18, 2018 2:37 PM

Cleveland just finished a 300 Milllion doller sewer tunnel that you could drive a train thru that is 3 miles long

The Euclid Creek Storage Tunnel Project forms a major component of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s (NEORSD) Project Clean Lake programme being implemented in the US, with an investment of $3bn.

The storage tunnel project was completed in September 2015, with an investment of $194.4m, approximately $3.6m under budget, while the larger Project Clean Lake programme will conclude in 2025.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, June 18, 2018 7:45 PM

One of Musks' Tesla's e-car batteries caught fire and burned up the car on tonight's news.  Had for this to happen to one of its "skates" in a 17 mile long tunned, it could be a crisis.

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Posted by Ed Kyle on Monday, June 18, 2018 10:24 PM

MidlandMike

One of Musks' Tesla's e-car batteries caught fire and burned up the car on tonight's news.  Had for this to happen to one of its "skates" in a 17 mile long tunned, it could be a crisis.

Designing for the inevitable, occasional fire is going to be a big challenge.  Fires happen on conventional subways from time to time (usually trash fires sparked by third rail arcing, etc., but sometimes the result of electrical fires on traction equipment).  Lithium battery fires are a different animal, very tough to extinguish and frighteningly energetic at their peak.  It is one thing for a Tesla auto to suffer a battery fire, where one or two or four people need to escape while the vehicle is stopped on a road.  It will be another thing entirely for a dozen or more people to try to escape from one of these things erupting in a tunnel rapidly filling with heat and smoke.  
 
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 10:12 AM

It will be interesting to learn the reason for the fire.

With his set goals Musk naturally ended up with a battery vehicle. He wants to go 150+ mph and wants to minimize the tunnel diameter. Under these conditions you can't use a catenary (too large diameter) and a 3rd rail, as that only allows up to 100 mph.

On the other hand HSR tunnels have a large diameter avoid to the effect of a piston in a pipe. Perhaps the vehicle's aerodynamics lessen this effect or the tunnel get high enough for a catenary.

We know next to nothing about the final Chicago system but the promotional video. But that has nothing to do with small tunnel bores. 
Regards, Volker

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 3:56 PM

Musk is a charlatan! Teslas stock is high, the bonds are considered junk and the company is unprofitable. Am I missing something here? Hyper link? Really? 

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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 5:09 PM

I agree partly. There are a lot vision but not many facts.

On the other hand Musk has achieved quite something with SpaceX. The company transported more satellites into space than Arianespace in 2017. And remember the landing of a Falcon 9 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPGUQySBikQ

If SpaceX is commercially successful I don't know. And Tesla has at least set the traditional car builders under pressure, but apparently without making profit.
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Posted by CMStPnP on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 7:58 PM

CandOforprogress2
Cleveland just finished a 300 Milllion doller sewer tunnel that you could drive a train thru that is 3 miles long The Euclid Creek Storage Tunnel Project forms a major component of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s (NEORSD) Project Clean Lake programme being implemented in the US, with an investment of $3bn. The storage tunnel project was completed in September 2015, with an investment of $194.4m, approximately $3.6m under budget, while the larger Project Clean Lake programme will conclude in 2025.

Just to let you know.    Most storage tunnel projects are not a solution and are tremendously expensive.     The theory of building them is they catch the overflow sewage during periods of heavy surge and then the sewage treatment plants can process at their liesure 24 by 7 making them more efficient.

What actually happens is that the deep tunnel is built to save on constructing future sewage treatment plants and the tunnel inevitably fills up and has to dump the excess into the lake.    So the solution still pollutes and pollutes heavily just not as frequently.     Milwaukee attempted the solution with deep tunnel and paid the exhorbatant price and it still has to dump into Lake Michigan during heavy surge times.    In Milwaukee's case in parts of the sewer system rainwater runoff is mixed with sewage in times of flooding which surges the volumne as well as the demand.

It's a lot better to just spend the damn money and fix the sewer lines as well as expand sewage treatment capacity than it is to build what amounts to a large holding tank.    Just saying, don't be fooled by the politicians.    They did not fix the problem they only put a band aid on it.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 8:12 PM

54light15

Musk is a charlatan! Teslas stock is high, the bonds are considered junk and the company is unprofitable. Am I missing something here? Hyper link? Really? 

Never underestimate the power of belief.  I bet many Penn Central shareholders felt pretty good in 1968, as did Enron's in 2001.

But it is also fair to note that Henry Ford's first car company failed, as did many others in that era.  Electric vehicles are going to be a big part of our transportation future, the big established car companies must believe that too or they would not have sunk as much money into developing their own.

Even if Tesla does not last as a car company, they may survive in the long-term as a battery maker.  Their home and grid backup systems are showing a lot of promise.

Petroleum-fueled cars (and locomotives) can catch on fire too, they just don't make the national news.

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 6:40 AM

Elon Musk has a similar fault to Ferdinand de Lesseps.  He believes with absolute confidence that the technology WILL be developed that will allow his dreams to be built.  As de Lesseps found out in Panama, it doesn't always work that way.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 10:43 AM

CMStPnP
Just to let you know. Most storage tunnel projects are not a solution and are tremendously expensive. The theory of building them is they catch the overflow sewage during periods of heavy surge and then the sewage treatment plants can process at their liesure 24 by 7 making them more efficient.

The overflow problem occurs with combined sewer systems. You could design a tunnel system that totally avoids overflows, until you get a new record rain. Consideration between goals and costs. There is no 100% safety.

The Portland, OR CSO tunnels reduces overflows into the Willamette River by 94%, and the Columbia Slough by 99%. According to publications a different approach, in this case seperation of rain water and sewage was estimated at twice the cost.

Building more wastewater treatment plants isn't necessarily a suitable solution. They need a minimum water flow and can process a maximum water flow. If you shut it down it takes some time until it work efficiently, too late for a rain storm. And they cost too.

Oak Harbor WA builds a pure sewage treatment plant (seperate sewage and rain water systems) at about $142 million for estemated 40,000 people including new pump stations and relaid sewage pipes.

CMStPnP
t's a lot better to just spend the damn money and fix the sewer lines as well as expand sewage treatment capacity than it is to build what amounts to a large holding tank. Just saying, don't be fooled by the politicians. They did not fix the problem they only put a band aid on it.

As said there is no 100% safety, even with new wastewater treatment plant. The next new record rain and they might be too small again. Someone has to pay for both and the storage tunnels have lower maintenance and operating cost.

There is not one solution fits all.
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Posted by erikem on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 1:43 PM

Responding to Ed and Voelker wrt fires:

The problem with a lithium battery fire in a confined space is a significant concern, but I would also be equally concerned about how the cars respond to diabled vehicles in the tunel (an issue with the Hyperloop as well).

One advantage with battery powered vehicles is that a blackout won't strand cars in the tunnel.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 2:23 PM

VOLKER LANDWEHR

 

 
CMStPnP
Just to let you know. Most storage tunnel projects are not a solution and are tremendously expensive. The theory of building them is they catch the overflow sewage during periods of heavy surge and then the sewage treatment plants can process at their liesure 24 by 7 making them more efficient.

 

The overflow problem occurs with combined sewer systems. You could design a tunnel system that totally avoids overflows, until you get a new record rain. Consideration between goals and costs. There is no 100% safety.

The Portland, OR CSO tunnels reduces overflows into the Willamette River by 94%, and the Columbia Slough by 99%. According to publications a different approach, in this case seperation of rain water and sewage was estimated at twice the cost.

Building more wastewater treatment plants isn't necessarily a suitable solution. They need a minimum water flow and can process a maximum water flow. If you shut it down it takes some time until it work efficiently, too late for a rain storm. And they cost too.

Oak Harbor WA builds a pure sewage treatment plant (seperate sewage and rain water systems) at about $142 million for estemated 40,000 people including new pump stations and relaid sewage pipes.

 

 
CMStPnP
t's a lot better to just spend the damn money and fix the sewer lines as well as expand sewage treatment capacity than it is to build what amounts to a large holding tank. Just saying, don't be fooled by the politicians. They did not fix the problem they only put a band aid on it.

 

As said there is no 100% safety, even with new wastewater treatment plant. The next new record rain and they might be too small again. Someone has to pay for both and the storage tunnels have lower maintenance and operating cost.

There is not one solution fits all.
Regards, Volker

 

Chicago's MWRD Deep tunnel project (not yet finished) is huge and expensive.  Though not perfect, it has mitigated the problems you discussed to a fairly great extent and will work even better when the rest of the quarry is no longer mined.  But increasingly we have more frequent "storms of the century" which likely are just one more costly consequence of GCC.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-deep-tunnel-swamped-20180307-story.html

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Posted by Ed Kyle on Thursday, June 21, 2018 2:25 PM

In addition to the fire issue, I believe that collision avoidance safety is a big question.  

Autonomous rail or people mover systems now in use move at one-third to maybe one-half the speeds projected for "Loop".  There is no non-rail autonomous transit system running 125 to 150 mph in service anywhere on this planet right now.  Except for a few experiments underway, existing slower speed autonomous systems, even non-rail types,  use distributed electrical power meaning there is a "hard-wire" connection to a proven track circuit used to keep track of vehicle position.  "Loop" is not wired to anything and it proposes to use collision avoidance technology that is not only unproven at these speeds, but that is under investigation by US Federal authorities right now (see the several recent Tesla collisions, the Uber collision, etc.).  The safety of this new system will have to be proven to Federal and local authorities.  Since the system is an unprecedented design, this will be a significant challenge, even if it is a constrained guideway, etc..  Digging the tunnels will be the easy part! 

 - Ed Kyle

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Posted by CandOforprogress2 on Thursday, June 21, 2018 2:56 PM

Combined Storm and Septic Sewers are common in older citys in the Northeast. Seperating them requires going under layers of existing utlities. Cleveland was court ordered and by treaty with Canada to clean up there act.  Finding drug needles on Euclid Beach was the last straw.

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Posted by cbq9911a on Thursday, June 21, 2018 3:17 PM

The Boring Company project isn't going to happen unless Elon Musk puts up most  of the money and builds the tunnel to CTA specs (so it can be converted to a subway tunnel if things don't work out).

The customers don't want "fast".  They want "reliable" and "safe".  "Reliable" means "low variance in travel duration for trips at different times".  

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:32 PM

One detail I haven't seen addressed in any of the promotional stories yet is evacuation of people in the event of some abnormal event. As the bumper sticker says, "S--T HAPPENS". If one is in one of the "skates" and you need to get out of the tunnel, HOW do you get out? The Swiss took great pains to design for cintingencies in the new Gotthard tunnel. The expression "The Devil is in the Details" comes to mind. Things that have happened in Chicago includes people getting sick on the trains, tunnels getting flooded, trains breaking down, just to name three events. The Chicago subways have access exits at many locations. Also ventilation of the tunnels that Musk is proposing is not discussed. The Skates while efficient will dissipate heat as will any HVAC systems they use for the passengers. I remember the heat in the Montreal subway after it opened in te 60's. Those rubber tired cars generated much more heat than the tunnel was designed for and the ventilation had to be augmented. If the Musk's design considers all these and many more, as I hpoe it will, I would love to see it succeed. 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, June 22, 2018 6:51 AM

Among all of the other points brought up, I wonder if Musk has given any serious thought about keeping this tunnel dry.  If one terminal is located near Block 37, it would probably be below the level of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, which means that seepage will be an issue that needs to be addressed.

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Posted by Alan Follett on Sunday, July 01, 2018 10:56 AM

I don’t see why that would be any more of a problem than it is for the existing CTA subways.  (Of course, the abandoned Chicago Tunnel Co. system did encounter a little water problem some years ago.)

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, July 02, 2018 10:13 PM

As has the CTA's tunnels. The LaSalle Street station was flooded (Punp failure) before the tracks to the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway went in to service. The Blue Line tunnel at Lake and Milwaukee has had a number of water blockages. One due to the 1991 freight tunnel flood. The State Street Subway I think also had a blockage from water at the Chicago river dip at least once.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, July 03, 2018 12:06 AM

Alan Follett

Of course, the abandoned Chicago Tunnel Co. system did encounter a little water problem some years ago.

With the help of a pile driver...

Greetings from Alberta

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