Las Vegas could become the first city to build a commercial transportation service dreamed up by Elon Musk, after local authorities voted on Tuesday to approve a recommendation to enter into exclusive negotiations with Musk’s tunneling business, Boring Co.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, a quasi-public body, voted to move ahead on talks with Boring Co., with the goal of voting on a contract by June. Ensuing talks would nail down details like the proposed route and the types of vehicles used for a project that aims to make it easier for visitors to get around Las Vegas’s sprawling convention center. After the addition of a new exhibition hall scheduled to open by 2021, the complex will run two miles in length.
On Tuesday, Musk tweeted in celebration of the vote: “Looking forward to building a Boring Company tunnel in Vegas. Assuming to be operational by end of year!” Steve Davis, the president of Boring Co., spoke on Tuesday to the authority’s board at their monthly meeting, where the vote took place.
The company has promised to build the tunnel for $30 million to $55 million, agency spokeswoman Jackie Dennis said. She described the price tag as significantly cheaper than the five other proposals reviewed by the agency’s evaluation team.
The project would be paid for largely with money from the convention authority’s general fund, which itself is funded mostly by hotel room taxes in Las Vegas. The $935 million convention center expansion comes from a separate allocation approved by Nevada legislators. Rides on the new Boring Co. service would be free to convention-goers.
Vegas is presenting itself as the type of place where Boring Co. could move ahead quickly, avoiding headwinds the company has faced in other areas. While a test tunnel opened in the Los Angeles area last year, another proposed project in the region was scuttled after opposition from neighborhood groups. In Chicago, a proposed project’s future is in doubt due to the retirement of its biggest supporter, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. A project connecting Washington to Baltimore is waylaid in the environmental-review process.
The regulatory hurdles are formidable enough that separately, on Tuesday, the U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the creation of a government council to help overcome “jurisdictional and regulatory gaps” and speed the deployment of new technology such as “tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles and other innovations.”
In Las Vegas, the Convention and Visitors Authority owns the convention center and almost all the land where the proposed tunnel would run, meaning there’s less bureaucracy and fewer required approvals, Dennis said. One portion of the tunnel would likely run under a Clark County street, meaning some additional permissions would still be required.
While no plans currently exist to expand the project beyond the convention center, Dennis said the system could one day be extended to reach the Las Vegas Strip and the airport.
Currently, an existing 3.9-mile monorail ferries visitors up and down the Strip and to the convention center. Passengers routinely complain about the long lines and high fares—$5 for a single trip.