Miami Tech & Startup News

City of Fort Lauderdale to consider bid from Elon Musk’s Boring Co. to build tunnel to alleviate gridlock

City of Fort Lauderdale to consider bid from Elon Musk’s Boring Co. to build tunnel to alleviate gridlock

Transportation in Fort Lauderdale might be about to get Boring.

This past week, the City of Fort Lauderdale accepted an unsolicited bid from Elon Musk’s infrastructure company to build a tunnel system under Las Olas Boulevard. The project would consist of a pair of 3-mile long, 12-foot wide underground tunnels going from the Brightline station to Las Olas Oceanside Park, with stops along the way.

In a tweet, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean J. Trantalis said that the plan “could be a truly innovative way to reduce traffic congestion.”

Riders would spend $5-8 dollars to hop in a Tesla for the quick journey. While that’s less than the $10 average Uber cost for the same journey, it is significantly more expensive than the $2 fare adults pay to use the Broward County bus that runs along the same route. (The county plans to procure only zero-emission buses by 2030).

Exact details about the bid will not be made public during the 45-day period for other companies to submit competitive bids. However, looking at Boring Co.’s recently-opened tunnel in Las Vegas provides an insight into what we might expect.

Despite Musk’s initial assertion that the vehicles would be autonomous and travel at 150 miles per hour, the reality is that the cars are driven by humans at around 30-40 miles per hour, according to Gizmodo.

The project in Las Vegas took one year to construct and ended up costing $52 million for a one-mile track. Boring Co. has told city officials that the so-called Las Olas Loop would cost closer to $10 to $12 million a mile, for a total of $60 to $72 million. That’s a lot of pennies.

Francis Suarez, Mayor of the City of Miami, has also expressed interest in Boring Co.’s tunnels. “I think we have a unique opportunity to create a signature project not just for Miami, but for the world,” he said. He visited the tunnel in Las Vegas last March.

In a tweet reply to Mayor Suarez last January, Musk said that “Cars & trucks stuck in traffic generate megatons of toxic gases & particulate, but Boring Co. road tunnels under Miami would solve traffic & be an example to the world.” 

Musk continued: “Spoke with [Florida’s governor] Ron DeSantis about tunnels last week. If Governor & Mayor want this done, we will do it.”

Tunnel vision aside, Boring Co. will face inevitable hurdles. From a political perspective, getting the tunnel approved might be an uphill battle. Last week, Commissioner Robert McKinzie voted against the proposal, but did not publicly say why. Skeptical residents will also have to be convinced. Randy King from Las Olas Isles told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that “Hopefully we don’t waste more money on ‘studying’ something that doesn’t work,” King wrote. “In spite of the fact it doesn’t really affect traffic, do we really want to open up caverns under the ground in light of what happened in Surfside? Do you want to lose power in that 3 mile tunnel? Please stop the insanity at the local government level.”

Boring Co. would also face engineering challenges. Not least of these difficulties is the spongy limestone bedrock found throughout South Florida. It is because of this bedrock, in part, that the tunnel under the Port of Miami cost almost $700 million to build.

But in a growing region that is pitching itself as a top tech hub, it’s not out of the question that officials and residents will stomach the cost and effort required to have an innovative transportation solution in the middle of one or two of our biggest cities.

Photo at top of post: Broward County and City of Fort Lauderdale government leaders tour the Boring Company’s tunnel in Las Vegas earlier this year.

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Riley Kaminer