The Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel project is no stranger to struggle, and it appears that trend continues even after the company won its current contract with the city. Las Vegas Monorail officials recently voiced concerns over the engineering safety in areas where the two systems will intersect underground and lobbied for more oversight of the Elon Musk-led venture. Despite Boring’s objections, the Winchester Town Board which oversees the new tunnel project agreed to require regular coordination between The Boring Company, the Monorail officials, and Las Vegas’s Public Works department.
“The proposed underground people mover system intersects our existing system route, and it appears the presented tunnel alignment interferes with our existing columns for the Las Vegas Monorail system and creates significant concern regarding both vertical and lateral loads,” Curtis Myles, CEO of the Las Vegas Monorail, claimed in a letter to Clark County planning officials in June.
“When you have columns that would be this close, you’re not just concerned about contact with the columns, you’re also concerned about vibration,” a lawyer representing the Monorail clarified later. “The record has to be absolutely clear, if there’s any damage at all to the columns, it will shut the Monorail down.”
Jane Labanowski, The Boring Company’s government relations executive, objected to Myles’s concerns. “Noise and vibration [from tunneling] are imperceptible at the surface. We design our process to be deep enough underground such that a person walking [on the surface] creates more vibration than our tunnel-boring machine underground.”
The chairperson of the Winchester Town Board cited precautionary reasons for the new coordination requirements. “That way we all have a point of reference to go back to, just in case somebody forgets or doesn’t check in with other people…All of a sudden, someone gets to be a bad actor who doesn’t mean to be,” the chairperson is quoted as saying at the Board meeting where the recent decision was made. With construction plans finally approved, The Boring Company must now pursue permits to begin digging.
The board members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LCVA) approved a $48.6 million contract with The Boring Company in May this year to build a transport tunnel under the the LCVA campus. The project will comprise one pedestrian tunnel and two vehicle tunnels connecting the campus’ New Exhibit Hall to the existing North/Central Hall. Construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and according to a contractor with oversight of the Boring project, public access will be limited to the tunnels during the CES event. “During CES it will be a little more difficult to have the public coming in and out than it would be for a [smaller] trade show,” the contractor said during the Board meeting.
To transport Las Vegas tunnel passengers, The Boring Company plans to use modified Tesla Model X and Model 3 vehicles which will carry up to 16 passengers each with both sitting and standing room. The cars will have autonomous operation, although a human driver will also be present as a safety precaution. Boring has estimated the system will be capable of transporting up to 4,400 passengers per hour.
This latest regulatory hurdle is only the latest that The Boring Company has encountered while pursuing the Las Vegas tunnel project. Earlier this year, LCVA board members Michele Fiore and Carolyn Goodman argued against the Boring Company’s project proposal, citing the startup’s inexperience and suggesting that the proposal from Austria-based Doppelmayr Garaventa Group be embraced instead. Doppelmayr’s proposal involved an above-ground transit system that would cost around $215 million to complete.