California officials advance Elon Musk’s lower-cost transit tunnel plan
- The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) has agreed to postpone an analysis of rail system alternatives, one of which would serve the Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California, in order to evaluate an unsolicited proposal from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s The Boring Co. (TBC), which has suggested a transit tunnel to the airport instead. This defers the issuance of a $3 million alternative analysis Request for Proposals by a “few months,” according to a staff-prepared board document.
- SBCTA staff estimate that a traditional rail project to the airport would cost $1 billion to $1.5 billion, while the transit tunnel option tunnel would cost a fraction of that amount, approximately 3% to 5%. In addition, a rail system would take approximately 10 years to develop and build and would cost $7 million to $9 million to operate and maintain each year. The tunnel option could be constructed in as little as five years and cost 40% of what it would take to operate and maintain a surface rail system.
- TBC has proposed using its high-speed, underground Loop technology to run autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) along a 2.8-mile path between the airport and a possible future Metrolink station along the San Bernardino Line. TBC has also provided a dual tunnel as an option to increase passenger capacity.
SBCTA staff told the authority’s board it expects to report back on the viability of the tunnel option in September. They also presented board members with information about TBC’s completed tunnel project in Hawthorne, California, one in progress in Las Vegas and a proposal in Los Angeles.
TBC built the Hawthorne tunnel, which runs just over a mile under the city of Hawthorne from the SpaceX parking lot, for $10 million and uses it as a testing ground to research and develop public transportation projects.
The company is also building a Loop system in Las Vegas for the city’s convention and visitors authority. The $50 million Las Vegas Convention Center Loop will take visitors from the convention center’s new exhibit hall to an existing section of the complex, turning a 15-minute walk into a one-minute ride. One tunnel is complete, and the second tunnel is about 75% finished. The tunnel system is scheduled to start service in December.
The Musk company has also applied to extend the convention center loop about 1.5 miles to the Encore at Wynn casino and hotel.
Meanwhile, TBC has proposed the Dugout Loop, which would ferry passengers between a yet-to-be-determined point and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
In June 2018, the city of Chicago selected TBC to build a Loop system from downtown to O’Hare International Airport, but the project was put in limbo after Mayor Lori Lightfoot took over for the project champion, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Lightfoot reportedly considered the project a “distraction” from other more important city issues and doubted that the project would not require public funds, as the company said.
According to TBC’s website, the project is still in contract review, environmental review and permitting. The company said that its proposed East Coast Loop from Baltimore to Washington D.C., is also under review.
This article was originally written by Kim Slowey and appeared here.