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Elon Musk's South Florida Tunnel Plans Under Scrutiny After Reports of Boring Company 'Ghosting' UPDATED

Elon Musk at a Tesla Factory in Fremont, California.
Elon Musk at a Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Photo by Maurizio Pesce
Update published December 1, 2022 12:55 p.m.: The City of Fort Lauderdale says it is in "regular communication with The Boring Co. as it conducts feasibility studies on a potential subsurface tunnel system."  City spokesperson Ashley Doussard tells New Times the company is on track to complete the studies, which include cost estimates and the design-and-build schedule, in March 2023.

The Boring Company, an Elon Musk business venture that began as a joke years ago after the billionaire complained about Los Angeles traffic, came to North Miami Beach in February with plans for a 6.2-mile underground tunnel for public transportation.

The tunnel would transport passengers in Tesla vehicles to seven stations along State Road 826, between the Golden Glades Transit Center and Sunny Isles Beach at Newport Pier. The project is estimated to cost between $185 million and $220 million, with a construction timetable of three years (if the permit process is expedited), according to The Boring Company.

The Elon Musk venture proposed a similar project in Fort Lauderdale last year. Known as the “Las Olas Loop,” the nearly three-mile-long underground tunnel would be designed to ease traffic around popular tourist destinations and get drivers from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale Beach more quickly.

While the projects seemed like a promising start to alleviating the Miami metro area's ever-worsening traffic jams, a recent report in the Wall Street Journal has raised concerns about whether The Boring Company is equipped to follow through.

According to the report, the company recently "ghosted" a handful of locations, including Maryland, Chicago, and Los Angeles, when it came time to formalize partnerships and break ground with their respective tunnel projects.

Former executives and local, state, and federal government officials who worked with Musk's company claim that it "repeatedly teased" cities with a promise to solve traffic issues, only to back out when faced with the challenges of building public infrastructure, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

As for North Miami Beach, a city official tells New Times that the city's tunneling project is still in the works. He says North Miami Beach is waiting on a feasibility study to be conducted by the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization, but the project is moving forward.

He adds that the city has not had communication issues with The Boring Company, and that the city expects the project planning to be a lengthy, years-long process. Next year will be a critical time for the project's progress, he says.

"They didn't ghost us," the city official says.

North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo did not respond to questions about the status of the project.

It's unclear how the tunnel route would be bankrolled, though federal infrastructure funding and state assistance have been floated as potential financing sources.
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A proposed subterranean transit system would stretch from Hard Rock Stadium to Newport Pier.
Boring Company tunnel route graphic
Plans submitted by the Boring Company show the North Miami Beach public transit tunnel extending west to Hard Rock Stadium, with a route branching off to Florida International University's Biscayne Bay campus.

In Fort Lauderdale in June, commissioners voted 3-1 to pay $375,000 for a "due diligence analysis" on the cost and suitability of the city's underground loop. The minimum pricetag for the Fort Lauderdale tunnel would be around $30 million, though some estimates put the cost at more than $100 million.

Ashley Doussard, a spokesperson for the City of Fort Lauderdale, said in an email that the June vote was the city's last action on the project.

Some residents have criticized the project as too costly, with some citing potential flooding issues as a logistical hurdle in realizing underground transportation in Fort Lauderdale. The Sun Sentinel reported that one Fort Lauderdale man complained at the June commission meeting that Musk and his company should be footing the bill for the planning stage.

“He’s the richest man in the world,” the resident reportedly told the commission. “He makes $1.4 million in one hour. Why should we spend money… when he’s going to make lots of dough out of it."

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis responded that the city has capped its expenses for the tunnel, and The Boring Company crew will be "the ones taking the risk” on the project.

Traditional tunneling projects can cost between $100 million to a billion dollars per mile. The Boring Company will have to reduce the cost by a factor of more than 10 in order to make its large-scale tunneling operations viable, the company says.

The only Boring Company tunnel currently open to the public is a 1.6-mile “loop experience” under the Las Vegas Convention Center, in which Teslas with hired drivers haul people around underground at about 30 miles an hour.

The City of Miami has also kicked around the idea of a Musk-built underground transit system. Mayor Francis Suarez personally spoke with Musk last year about subterranean transit that would connect Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard to relieve downtown traffic. In March 2021, Suarez discussed a bigger vision for a tunnel collaboration with Musk after returning from a visit to The Boring Company's Las Vegas facilities. 

In 2018, Miami-Dade County officials put a pricetag of $900 million on a two-mile underground transportation system that would extend under the Miami River. Musk's proposals have been a fraction of that cost on a per-mile basis.

The Boring Company did not respond to a request for comment via email. The company's website boasts about its creation of "safe, fast-to-dig, and low-cost transportation, utility, and freight tunnels" with a mission of solving traffic and enabling quicker transportation.
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