Innovation

The Boring Company: map shows Elon Musk’s big plans for Las Vegas

Elon Musk's tunnel-digging firm is currently completing a tunnel at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Boring Company's first public tunnel project may almost be completed, but it has big plans for the future. Elon Musk, who founded the tunnel-digging firm at the end of 2016, declared on his Twitter page Monday that it's "looking likely" the company will expand its first project to cover a broader area of Las Vegas.

The $52.5 million Las Vegas project is currently expected to be completed ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show early next year, connecting two sides of the Las Vegas Convention Center over 4,500 feet of bi-directional tunnels. A Twitter account called "Vital Vegas" claimed Monday the firm is "confident" it will expand "to include tunnels between airport and downtown Las Vegas, in addition to proposed stops at Wynn and Resorts World." Musk responded to the post to confirm that it is "looking likely."

Twitter

The declaration matches with previous plans shared by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The group shared a basic map on March 6, 2019, when the deal was first announced. This was replaced with a more detailed map on March 12, when the board approved the plan. This map shows the originally-planned transport system in solid lines, alongside a broader future expansion shown in dotted lines:

The Boring Company's previously-suggested expansions.LVCVA

The authority's statement on March 12, 2019, declared the tunnel "will be designed to meet the full spectrum of ridership needs, including demands from future expansions, with a potential capacity of up to 11,000 passengers per hour."

The suggestion comes in the same month that more Las Vegas-based businesses have expressed interest in The Boring Company. The Verge last week obtained planning documents, which show Wynn wants to build a 0.6-mile tunnel reaching the Convention Center, while Resorts World wants to build a 0.4-mile tunnel to the center. Unlike the convention center tunnels, which will operate for free, trips on these routes would cost $3 to $5 each.

The report also comes as the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the project could connect with the Las Vegas Stadium.

“It does depend on a few things. If things go well, by the next football season (2021), we would be able to connect to the stadium,” Steve Hill, both chairman of Las Vegas Stadium Authority and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, told the publication. “Things would have to go really well in order to make that happen. But that’s probably the earliest possible time that we could get a system really connected to the stadium.”

Hill did state earlier in the month, however, that this larger "Vegas Loop" project would not extend and connect into the Convention Center tunnels. That suggests passengers would have to transfer when they reach the Convention Center if they want to reach the other side of the complex.

At the time of the March 2019 announcement, the authority shared a close-up map of the Convention Center project:

The map of the tunnel.LVCVA

The project is The Boring Company's first publicly-accessible tunnel. Musk first detailed the company at the start of 2017, borne out of a frustration with Los Angeles traffic. Cities could dig underground, he reasoned, to add more capacity and alleviate traffic. These projects could avoid the induced demand issue, as digging underground meant they could stack tunnels and provide enough capacity for the whole population to move through if necessary.

Musk by the first tunnel.ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

The firm unveiled its first tunnel, a 1.14-mile test track, at SpaceX's Hawthorne campus in California in December 2018. Musk explained that autonomous, electric vehicles would be able to use the tunnels to move through at speeds of up to 150 mph. The tunnels would be cheaper than regular construction projects, as they would only measure 14 feet in diameter and use innovative tunnel-digging machines.

The response from cities has been mixed since then. One Virginia official dismissed the idea as "a car in a tunnel" back in March 2019. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a connection between downtown and the airport, but the idea fell to the wayside after he left office.

The Vegas project could turn the tide, demonstrating to other cities that the tunnel-digging venture could offer a solution to their transit needs. In May 2020, the firm completed digging for the project. The team then planned to focus on constructing the three passenger stations, with Musk claiming they could finish the project this year.

The Inverse analysis – The Boring Company's first project could demonstrate the company's viability as a people mover. As it finishes construction on the Convention Center project, its plans for future expansion could bring it to a broader audience. The firm has also been rumored to be working with Tesla on a 12-person electric van, which could transport more people through the tunnels than the seven-seater Model X.

Slowly but surely, the firm is emerging to offer a solution that could work out cheaper for cities.

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