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Boring Company transit tunnel
An artist’s conception shows a vehicle carrying passengers through a loop tunnel in Las Vegas. (Boring Company / LVCVA Illustration)

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s board of directors today approved a recommendation to have the Boring Company build an underground express tunnel that could connect downtown Las Vegas, the city’s convention center and airport, and other points of interest.

It’s the latest roll of the dice for the tunneling company founded by tech titan Elon Musk a little more than two years ago.

The proposition hasn’t yet paid off: The LVCVA and the Boring Company still have to work out the specifics of the tunnel’s design, construction and operational plans. But today’s recommendation sets the stage for the 14-member board to approve a contract at a future meeting to be held by June.

Plans call for the underground loop system to be incorporated into the Las Vegas Convention Center’s expansion plans. When it’s complete in 2021, the center will span 200 acres. Attendees at the annual CES tech trade show would have to walk about 2 miles to get from one end to the other — which explains the need for a rapid-transit route.

Las Vegas Convention Center map
A map shows proposed routes for an underground transit loop serving the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Boring Company Graphic via LVCVA)

“Las Vegas is a high-energy, high-technology destination equipped to welcome the world, and we are excited to deliver a system that will help visitors efficiently navigate the city’s many offerings,”  Steve Davis, president of the Boring Company, said today in a news release.

The LVCA said the Boring Company was chosen at the end of a months-long, multi-step process that attracted multiple proposals. Construction cost is estimated at $35 million to $55 million, depending on the route, the number of stations and the size of stations. There are provisions for future route expansions, with a potential capacity of up to 11,000 passengers per hour.

In a tweet, Musk suggested that the tunnel could be operational on a limited basis by the end of this year — well before the convention center project is complete.

History suggests that the tunnel’s path may not run as smooth as Musk hopes, however. The Boring Company’s plans to build an underground express tunnel connecting downtown Chicago with O’Hare International Airport has run into political roadblocks — and Chicago’s mayoral candidates aren’t exactly supportive of that project.

In December, Musk and the Boring Company showed off a 1.14-mile-long demonstration tunnel under Hawthorne, Calif., but the reviews were mixed. Plans to build a bigger transit tunnel under Los Angeles have gone through a series of revisions and reversals. The current plan calls for a “Dugout Loop” to connect the L.A. subway system to Dodger Stadium — but the exact route hasn’t yet been determined, and regulatory hurdles lie ahead.

The Boring Company has laid out plans for tunnel between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and there’s talk of tunnels in New York, Pennsylvania and Silicon Valley as well.

Musk founded the Boring Company in 2016 to follow up on his nearly six-year-old concept for hyperloop transit tubes. The Boring Company’s underground “loops” are designed to transport riders on converted Tesla cars or custom-built vehicles at faster-than-highway speeds. In contrast, hyperloops would send specially designed pods between cities at near-supersonic speeds.

Today, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced at the SXSW festival in Texas that her department has set up a Non-Traditional and Emerging Technology Council to explore the regulation and permitting of hyperloop technology.

“New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I’ve signed an order creating a new internal department council to better coordinate the review of innovations that have multi-modal applications,” Chao said in a news release. The council is to conduct its first planning meeting this week.

For now, Musk is focused in the Boring Company loop concept rather than the more ambitious hyperloop concept. But other companies, including Virgin Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, are pursuing commercial projects.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson thanked Chao for setting up the Transportation Department’s new council.

“Through our recent conversations, it is clear she wants to be at the forefront of exploring innovative technologies to improve transportation in the United States,” Branson said.

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