Fort Lauderdale to pay Elon Musk’s company for tunnel study

The Boring Company LVCC loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center (The Boring Company, Getty)

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is about to realize his tunnel vision for Fort Lauderdale.

The city will pay its tunneling company, The Boring Company, to study the cost and feasibility of an underground loop for vehicles shuttling between downtown Fort Lauderdale and the city beach. It is known as the Las Olas Loop project, aimed at relieving traffic congestion.

City commissioners voted 3-1 on Tuesday to win up to $375,000 for a due diligence analysis of the loop project proposed by Musk’s company. Commissioner Robert McKinzie cast the only dissenting vote.
Some Fort Lauderdale residents who spoke publicly at the commission meeting criticized proposed vehicle tunnels as traffic choke points if a vehicle is disabled, and cited potential flooding hazards during downpour or storm surge.

The Boring Company’s initial estimates of the cost of a two-tunnel loop connecting downtown and the beach ranged from $60 million to $90 million, Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom told the commission.

“It would be a first for Florida,” he said.

The city will reimburse The Boring Company for work to determine the optimal path for two underground tunnels between the beach and downtown and the “guaranteed minimum price” for the system, Lagerbloom said.

Maximum reimbursements are $50,000 for an analysis of alternatives to planned tunnels, $100,000 for preliminary architectural and civil drawings of tunnels and stations, and $225,000 for a geotechnical report.
The commission approved these maximum payments as part of an interim agreement between the Texas-based company and the city to pursue a comprehensive agreement to build, operate and maintain a two-tunnel system.

Tasks on the company’s to-do list under the interim agreement include on-site geophysical scanning to locate underground utilities and searching for utility lines to confirm their depth. The Boring Company must also develop a plan to build the launch site, stations and ancillary facilities for the underground loop. The terms of the interim agreement require the company to file a project progress report with the city every 30 days. The Interim Agreement will remain in effect until superseded by a Global Agreement or terminated by mutual consent.

The commission passed a resolution in October to work with The Boring Company toward the potential development of a tunnel system for quick trips between the beach and downtown. The company delivered its unsolicited tunnel proposal to the city in June last year. City commissioners then authorized a public solicitation of alternative proposals over a 45-day period that ended in August. Two other unqualified proposals were rejected as incomplete.

Mayor Dean Trantalis and other commissioners said the potential for a Las Olas Loop tunnel system in Fort Lauderdale is exemplified by The Boring Company’s Underground Loop in Las Vegas.

At a cost of $52.5 million, The Boring Company built a tunnel system under the 200-acre campus of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where drivers of Elon Musk’s Tesla-made electric cars pass through two one-way tunnels unique, each 0.8 miles long, shuttling passengers to their destinations at the sprawling center.

“The numbers are growing very nicely in terms of the number of people using the [Las Vegas] system,” Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Ben Sorenson said.

It foresees the possibility of extending a tunnel system similar to Fort Lauderdale from downtown and the beach to Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Lockhart Stadium. “We have to look at a much bigger picture here,” Sorenson said.

Michael J. Chiaramonte