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Elon Musk’s Boring Company to expand underground tunnels in Las Vegas

“A large network of tunnels can alleviate congestion in any city; no matter how large a city grows, more levels of tunnels can be added.”
A Tesla drives through a tunnel.
A Tesla car drives through The Boring Company’s Las Vegas Convention Center Loop. The Associated Press/John Locher

Story at a glance

  • Despite hesitations expressed by those who tested the system, The Boring Company received approval to further expand its underground tunnel network in Las Vegas. 

  • The Las Vegas Convention Center hopes to have its portion of the system up and running by 2023.

  •  Previous efforts to install similar networks in Chicago and Los Angeles were unsuccessful.

As part of its effort to construct a transportation system hitting the most popular stops in Las Vegas, Elon Musk’s The Boring Company received approval this week to expand its underground tunnels downtown.

Musk’s vision for the “Vegas Loop” includes plans to connect the city’s Strip, Harry Reid International Airport, Allegiant Stadium, downtown Las Vegas and eventually Los Angeles. 

First approved in October 2021 by the Clark County commissioners, the latest unanimous vote on the non-exclusive agreement permits tunnels to be constructed from the Stratosphere to Fremont Street. 

“To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels are needed. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight, and won’t fall on your head,” the company’s website reads.

“Tunnels minimize usage of valuable surface land and do not conflict with existing transportation systems. A large network of tunnels can alleviate congestion in any city; no matter how large a city grows, more levels of tunnels can be added.”

When completed, the project is anticipated to have 51 stops and cover 29 miles, transporting up to 57,000 passengers each hour. Currently, only 1.7 miles underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center are operational. What is normally a 25-minute walk across the campus now only takes 2 minutes via a human-controlled Tesla Model X and Y.

The city hopes tunnels will free up road space for traffic capacity and avoid expensive roadway widenings to accommodate more vehicles.

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In the future, the company plans to use self-driving Teslas to make the trek. Costs are expected to be similar to those of public transit or ride-hailing services

During January’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas, attendees were able to test out the system which can hold 70 cars at once. Despite reports of less congestion than walking through the conference, traffic backups were reported and some passengers were left underwhelmed. 

The Convention Center hopes to begin providing rides to guests beginning in 2023 and anticipates routes connecting the Center to Resorts World will be operational by the end of 2022. 

In response to the latest approval, The Boring Company tweeted “TBC is excited to build a safe, convenient, and awesome transportation system in the City.”

The tunnels will be equipped with real-time gas and smoke detection features and emergency communications. Practice drills with police and fire departments will also be carried out on a regular schedule. 

As part of the new approval, city officials required The Boring Company to provide any unique equipment and bear any costs for first responders to access the tunnels, stressing taxpayers will not be responsible for unexpected costs. 

In the company’s initial pitch, it promised not to spend any taxpayer money for construction but planned to ask hotel casinos that want individual stations to foot these bills. 

“All of the funding is from The Boring Company,” said Mike Janssen, Executive Director of Infrastructure for the City of Las Vegas, during the June 15 Las Vegas City Council meeting

“The Boring Company will pay all standard plan check, permit and inspection fees,” which depending on the scale of expansion, could range from $1 million to $2 million dollars.

The expansion will also have to go through a series of steps, including acquiring permits before construction begins. An operational testing phase will take place next prior to an opening to the general public.

The Boring Company’s previous efforts to expand tunnel systems in Chicago, Los Angeles and the Northeast corridor have all stalled. 

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