Elon Musk targets Texas cities for next tunnel projects

By Jenny LescohierAugust 11, 2021

San Antonio city agencies have talked about digging a 10-mile loop between the city’s downtown and San Antonio International Airport, among other routes

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company (TBC) has been in negotiations with officials in San Antonio and Austin regarding the construction of local tunnels much like the one recently completed underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that city agencies have talked about digging a 10-mile loop between the city’s downtown and San Antonio International Airport, among other routes.

Austin’s Development Services Department (DSD) told KXAN that The Boring Company proposed a tunnel in Austin which would run from Tesla’s nearby Gigafactory Texas, where the automaker plans to produce the Model Y sedan and eventually, the Cybertruck, to downtown Austin.

New tunnels in Texas would be the latest in a string of high-profile municipal partnerships for The Boring Company, led by renowned entrepreneur Elon Musk, who founded and leads electric car maker Tesla.

The Las Vegas underground loop opened on June 8, the first day of World of Concrete, which was the first major tradeshow to return to Las Vegas after more than a year since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 1.7-mile loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center has three stops and is said to have cost about $47 million to build. According to results revealed last spring, the system can handle more than 4,400 passengers per hour.

Las Vegas city councilors also approved an expansion into downtown, with plans to connect to McCarran International Airport.

Transport by Tesla

Musk’s HyperLoops are transport tunnels specifically outfitted with Tesla Model X vehicles to shuttle passengers across several city stops. The goals are to help reduce carbon emissions caused by traditional transportation and to relieve city traffic. Currently, the Tesla vehicles have drivers, but the plan is for them to be autonomous by the end of this year.

If the Boring Company wins the bid to design and implement its tunnel system in San Antonio and Austin, it will add the cities to its current roster of clients including Las Vegas; Hawthorne, Calif.; and potentially Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

Teslarati noted TBC has a history of building or pitching tunnels in areas with a lot of foot traffic, like airports. The company’s second project in Las Vegas, the Vegas Loop, plans to run through the McCarran International Airport, while in San Bernardino County, its Ontario Loop will connect to the Ontario International Airport.

The currently operational LVCC Loop reportedly received positive reactions from Florida mayors who are said to be considering TBC tunnels for their cities. Fort Lauderdale, for one, accepted The Boring Company’s proposal for a Las Olas Loop in the city. 

Boring technology takes root

The LVCC Loop system was built in approximately one year using the now-legacy Godot Tunnel Boring Machine. Tunneling occurred during large conventions (>100,000 attendees pre-Covid) with zero road closures and zero attendee disturbances.

The Boring Company’s broader vision for the U.S. is a large network of tunnels many layers deep. By tunneling underground, there is less societal disturbance during construction. Then, as infrastructure demand increases, additional tunnel layers can be constructed to increase passenger-transporting capacity in the same general area. 

Tunneling technology is still new in the U.S., primarily due to the high cost of using traditional equipment, which is said to cost as much as $1 billion per mile, but the highly specialized tools are becoming more cost effective.

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