As The Boring Company prepares to hold a public showing for its first completed tunnel this coming December 10, Elon Musk’s tunneling startup has revealed that it is dropping its plans to dig a tunnel under Sepulveda Blvd. on the Westside of LA. The company’s decision to abandon its project comes amidst its settlement with a group of Westside advocates who alleged that local government violated state law when it decided to exempt the Boring Company’s proof-of-concept tunnel from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
In a joint statement on Tuesday, The Boring Company, together with the plaintiffs of the case, stated that they have “amicably settled” the lawsuit. The terms of the two parties’ settlement remain confidential, though, as noted by an attorney for the Westside advocates to The San Diego Union-Tribune. With plans for the Sepulveda Blvd tunnel now abandoned, The Boring Co. would be focusing on building the Dugout Loop, a tunnel system connecting the Dodger Stadium and a Metro station, instead.
The legal opposition against the Sepulveda tunnel emerged last May, when two local neighborhood groups — the Brentwood Residents Coalition and the Sunset Coalition — filed a lawsuit, alleging that the project is actually part of a larger system of tunnels that would be used for public transportation in the future.
The tunneling startup was moving briskly through the permit process then, partly since The Boring Company noted that the tunnel would not be used to transport commuters, allowing the project to gain an exemption from environmental review. This was indicated on The Boring Company’s FAQ on its website.
“The tunnel would be used for construction logistics verification, system testing, safety testing, operating procedure verification, and line-switching demonstrations. Phase 1 would not be utilized for public transportation until the proof-of-process tunnel is deemed successful by County government, City government, and TBC.”
At the heart of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was a map that The Boring Company released for its planned tunnel routes. Included in the proposed routes was a line that appeared to trace the route of the Sepulveda Blvd tunnel. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs noted that “the state’s stringent environmental review requirements cannot be evaded by chopping large projects into smaller pieces that taken individually appear to have no significant environmental impacts.” The Westside advocates also voiced their disapproval of the city’s commission to approve a route that The Boring Company would use for hauling 80,000 cubic yards of dirt from the tunnel.
The Boring Company’s projects in LA’s Westside have attracted their own fair share of critics. When the advocates filed their lawsuit earlier this year, for one, Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole aired his skepticism of the tunneling startup’s concept as a whole.
“We’ll have people stuck in traffic on the surface, and this miracle fast lane underground for the people who can afford it. It’ll be toll lanes on steroids,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While The Boring Company’s settlement with the Westside advocates is a notable roadblock to its projects in the LA area, the tunneling startup is nonetheless making progress on its other activities. The test tunnel under the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne is now getting refined and is set for public viewing on December 10, and the construction of a prototype garage-elevator that connects directly to a tunnel is seeing a lot of activity. Permits to establish The Brick Store, an outlet where Boring Bricks would be sold, have also been filed.
Apart from these, the tunneling startup is preparing to start its most ambitious project to date — the high-profile Chicago-O’Hare high-speed transport line, which is expected to begin construction soon. Updates about the project have been scarce so far, though photographs taken by Teslarati photographers Pauline Acalin and Tom Cross suggest that a gantry for the Chicago tunnel line, as well as what appears to be a next-generation Tunnel Boring Machine, is under construction.