Billionaire Elon Musk’s dream of using tunnels as re-imagined people movers kicked off in the real world Friday, as his Boring Company held a ceremony in Las Vegas celebrating the start of drilling for its first commercial project to get underway.
The $53 million twin-tunnel “Loop” system is expected to take visitors to three stops spread across the length of less than a mile, 40 feet below the sprawling and expanding Las Vegas Convention Center.
Convention officials said in a statement that digging started in earnest — several test tunnels were already developed — Friday.
“This is the first commercial endeavor” for the Boring Company, they said.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill said getting across the 200-acre convention center site, which has a new addition, its West Hall, under construction, would have otherwise taken as long as 45 minutes by foot and included crossing busy streets.
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“From one end of the campus to the other will be little less than two minutes” with the Boring Loop, he told NBC News affiliate KSNV.
Rides will be free, convention officials said.
The Boring Company, based in Hawthorne, California, has proposed similar subterranean projects in Los Angeles, Chicago and between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland.
A test tunnel that begins beneath Boring’s property in Hawthorne was opened to reporters last year but raised as many questions about the company’s Loop system as it answered.
Although it’s meant as a high-speed alternative to freeway driving, each tunnel in the system would be limited to the passenger capacity of a Tesla vehicle, and its ability to safely and comfortably facilitate high-speed travel as advertised is not clear.
In Las Vegas it’s not apparent if off-the-shelf rides from Musk’s Tesla electric vehicle company or promised “high-occupancy” autonomous electric vehicles, yet to be unveiled, will be used. Promised speeds of up to 155 mph won’t be happening, Hill told KNSV.
Speeds would be limited to 35 mph, he told the station, because the short length of the system wouldn’t safely allow anything faster.
Boring has also promised that its projects would be privately funded, but the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority got its start with a green light from the state Legislature, which provided it with a stream of hotel tax dollars.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority officials said the system was scheduled to be open by January 2021.