By Benjamin Brown
Published March 15, 2019
LAS VEGAS – The Boring Company founder Elon Musk and his vision to create high-speed transit tunnels to help solve the nation’s high infrastructure cost for a fraction of the price might finally come to fruition out in the desert.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority voted earlier this week to move forward with contract negotiations with Musk’s Boring Co. to construct a tunnel transportation system connecting the roughly two-mile-long convention center.
“What if we could create something that the rest of the industry -- in China, in Denver, in Atlanta -- said 'God I wish we had, I wish we would’ve,'” Chuck Bowling, who serves on the LVCVA board of directors as well as the president of Mandalay Bay, said during a committee meeting Tuesday on whether to continue talks with The Boring Company.
While a majority of the board members were excited about the prospect of being a testing ground for innovation, the idea was not without skepticism – including from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman.
“The Boring Company does not have any documented successes nor a track record of achievement. It is exploratory at this time, and we are considering handing over the reins of our most important industry,” said Goodman, who also serves on the LVCVA board of directors. “I would like to have further briefing on this entire project to the inclusive board of the LVCVA.”
Despite having several other proposals/projects in the works in Los Angeles, Chicago as well as Washington D.C. and Maryland, Boring Co. has yet to build more than a two-mile test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif.
Russell Holly, managing editor of Mobile Nations, notes that the Tesla founder has a “huge track record of overpromising,” but said if the Boring Company is able to follow through in Las Vegas, it could be “a huge deal for the company and lead to a lot of other contracts.”
“Tesla is raising prices on all of its cars and the fabled $35,000 model is basically not going to happen,” Holly said, in reference to the automotive company announcing it was raising the price on most of its vehicles by 3 percent. “So, there's a lot of, you know, overpromising when it comes to Tesla. I don't see any reason to consider that the Boring Company is going to be any different, especially since it's unproven. So, it's hard to say seriously.”
What sets Musk apart from other companies is not the tunnel itself, but the extremely low cost at which he claims to be able to build it – another concern mentioned during Tuesday’s LVCVA committee hearing.
The Boring Co.’s $35 million to $55 million proposal for the Las Vegas Convention Center would feature Tesla vehicles operating though express tunnels that connect the convention center’s main halls with the capability to transport roughly 11,000 passengers per hour.
“The whole purpose of our company is not to say we invented tunneling, that would be ludicrous – it is to say that we can do it faster, and we can do it much less expensive and we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is by doing all firm-based price and performance-based contracts,” Steve Davis, Boring Co. president, said at Tuesday’s committee meeting.
To put it in perspective, the San Francisco Central Subway cost $920 million per mile while the Seattle U-Link came in at $600 million per mile on the cheaper end, according to data compiled by writer and transportation researcher Alon Levy for CityLab last January.
The 2015 subway extension in New York City for Manhattan’s East Side cost $2.5 billion per mile, while the addition to the No. 7 line cost $1.5 billion, the New York Times pointed out.
If Las Vegas does become The Boring Company’s first success story, it could help solve the nation’s infrastructure problem and close the roughly trillion-dollar gap “between what we currently spend on infrastructure nationwide and what we need to spend,” Michele Nellenbach, director of strategic initiatives at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told Fox News.
“We are certainly not without need, and we need some innovative solutions that will hopefully bring down some of the costs -- which to me, was one of the intriguing things about what Musk has proposed is that if the boring technology works as he's predicting, it will it could really bring down the cost of doing some of this underground,” she said.
President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget plan calls for at least $1 trillion in infrastructure spending.
As for Las Vegas, chief executive officer of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Tina Quigley, said the low-cost of what Musk is proposing is definitely intriguing as the city is “running out of space.”
“We have a geometry problem in some corridors where we just can't fit in more personal private vehicles without eventually having significant congestion,” Quigley said, adding “there's no way to uncouple technology and transit and transportation moving forward. They are interlinked and, well, they should be because there's a lot of opportunity to get more with less.”
If all goes according to plan, LVCVA president Steve Hill expects the tunnel to be completed in time for the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show and believes it could later be expanded to connect the Vegas strip.