CUBITAL TUNNEL CHICAGO — The tunneling robot cubital tunneling machine that has become synonymous with Chicago’s famed Loop tunnel and other Chicago tunnel-related projects is getting another makeover.
Invented in the 1950s by Chicago’s own Fred Munk, the cubital digging robot, which is about the size of a small SUV, can excavate up to 2.5 feet (0.8 meters) of ground per hour and can dig more than 100 feet (30 meters) beneath the city.
But in recent years, the machine has been plagued by an array of design problems that have led to its eventual demise.
The cubital machine is part of a $2.3 billion project to expand the Loop and create a new subway line from Logan Square to Grant Park.
The project is the latest example of a massive investment in the city’s transportation infrastructure that has helped Chicago become one of the most livable major cities in the United States.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently said the project will add up to more than $1.2 billion to the city over the next 20 years.
More than 40,000 people have signed up to take part in a pilot program in Chicago that is scheduled to run until 2019.
The Chicago Loop Tunnel Association, which represents tunneling companies and tunnel experts, said the program aims to test a new design for the machine, which has been in development for more than two decades.
“I think that we have a lot of excitement about the potential of this,” said Mike Lutz, executive director of the Chicago Tunnel Association.
“It’s a very innovative machine, but I think we are also trying to figure out a way to mitigate some of the problems that might arise with this new design.”
The company behind the project, a subsidiary of California-based engineering firm RCA, has not yet unveiled the final design for a new tunneling device that will replace the old one.
But the company said in a statement that it will soon begin testing the new device.
Munk said in an interview with CNNMoney that he has been frustrated with the design problems with the cubitrom machine, especially because it has been used for so many years.
“It’s been a very boring, boring machine for a long time, and I’ve tried to make it a little bit more interactive,” he said.
He said he hopes to test the new machine sometime in 2019.
“I really do hope it’s going to be very efficient,” Munk said.
“But I’m not sure it’s good enough.
I want to make sure it works for the whole city.”
A few of the machine’s design flaws have been solved over the years, but the cubito-based machine is not expected to be up and running for another two to three years.