In a meeting of local government officials, Elon Musk has proposed having the Boring Company drill a traffic tunnel that will make it easier for SpaceX employees to come to work at the Boca Chica, Texas, launch facility. He says that it will make it easier to leave some sections of the public beach open to visitors during critical launch operations.
The proposed tunnel would stretch from an area just south of Saint Padre Island, where several SpaceX employees live, and an area just north of the public beach. County officials say that the tunnel would have to go under a channel that is commonly used by boats passing through, which means that the Boring Company would have to drill pretty far down in order to construct the tunnel. The county is also considering adding a ferry to provide transportation between Saint Padre Island and Boca Chica Beach.
The county says that it wouldn’t be able to provide any funding for the proposed tunnel project. A 1.7-mile loop in Las Vegas, which opened in June and includes three stops, cost $47 million to construct. Those who tested the system when the Las Vegas tunnel first opened say that the ride can be pretty bumpy.
Competing project include Virgin Hyperloop, a part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which built a 500-meter test track just outside Las Vegas. This project appears to be closer to Musk’s original vision for an underground transportation option and includes a pod that can carry passengers at speeds up to 172 kilometers per hour.
County officials have not yet made a decision on approving construction, although they admit that they haven’t discussed it much since the meeting with Elon Musk. However, officials say that they could see the benefit of such a project.
“From what we understand from SpaceX, there is a good portion of the beach that can remain open if there was access to it, even though the road is closed and even though a portion of the beach is closed,” County Administrator Pete Sepulveda Jr. said after the meeting.
That echoed concerns about “government relations” expressed by observers who say that managing the paperwork and bureaucracy could be more challenging than actually building things like Hyperloops and underground traffic tunnels. As NBC News’ Cyrus Farivar, a reporter who has covered the Boring Company’s projects put it:
“Many construction professionals will tell you that, you know, it’s not the speed of the tunnel boring that you need to worry about. It’s the environmental review. It’s the bureaucratic procedure. It’s the permits.”
Residents of Cameron County, which the launch facility is located in, have previously complained about alleged excessive closures of roads and beaches. SpaceX’s security guards were allegedly seen improperly turning vehicles away on nearby public roads. The company that any incidents may have been the result of an improperly trained security guard. SpaceX has since proposed that it could take over ownership of at least one road that runs past the Boca Chica facility.