Trending: Pacific Hyperloop keeps chugging along amid interest in ultra-high-speed transit

Tunnel boring machine
The tunnel boring machine nicknamed “Godot” sits in a below-ground chamber. Elon Musk reportedly acquired the pre-owned machine from L.A. Metro. (Elon Musk via Instagram)

One of billionaire Elon Musk’s lesser-known ventures is taking the spotlight with word that The Boring Company is planning to dig a rapid-transit tunnel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

That’s not all: Musk says the company is putting the finishing touches on a second tunneling machine, which will be nicknamed Line-Storm as a tribute to a Robert Frost poem. The first machine is named Godot, after the Samuel Beckett play. It’s being employed to dig a tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., where Musk’s SpaceX rocket venture is headquartered.

Musk is even selling Boring Company hats. More than 6,400 of them, at last report.

In June, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla estimated that he spent only about 2 percent of his working time on The Boring Company, which focuses on lowering the cost of tunneling to facilitate high-speed underground transit. He must have saved up a lot of that time for this week.

The Baltimore-Washington project is the most intriguing development: This week, a Reddit user posted pictures showing a fenced-off area south of Baltimore, with The Boring Company’s logo emblazoned on the fence.

Electrek picked up on the pictures and passed them along, even though they were deleted from the Reddit forum. They appear to show a staging site for a tunnel entrance.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted out confirmation of The Boring Company’s involvement, and said the project was part of a plan to “bring rapid electric transportation to MD – connecting Baltimore City to D.C.”

“Get ready,” Hogan said on video.

News reports indicate that Maryland’s Department of Transportation has given The Boring Company conditional utility approval to dig a 10-mile-long tunnel under the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, starting from a spot near Fort Meade. That section accounts for about a third of the parkway’s total mileage.

Aides to Hogan told The Baltimore Sun that the state doesn’t plan to contribute significantly to the expense of the project.

The plan follows through on a vision that Musk laid out in July for building a Hyperloop transit system between New York and Washington. The system could make use of the tube network that’s been part of Musk’s Hyperloop concept since 2013.

For some time now, Maryland state and local officials have been discussing options for a high-speed link to Washington. One scenario calls for spending as much as $10 billion on a transit tunnel through which high-speed maglev trains would travel.

The goal for a privately backed project known as Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail is to cut Baltimore-D.C. travel time to 15 minutes. Eventually, the project’s organizers want to extend the route to allow for one-hour trips between New York and Washington.

The plan has received $28 million in federal funds for planning and engineering analysis, with Gov. Hogan’s blessing. But the idea has run into community opposition, due to concerns about cost as well as about noise and disruption.

Can Hyperloop technology offer a faster, cheaper, better route for rapid transit? That’s a question that The Boring Company will aim to answer over the months and years ahead.

Update for 12:15 p.m. PT Oct. 21: We’ve updated this report with additional information from Baltimore and D.C. news media about the plan for the tunnel.

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