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Could an Underground Tunnel System in Los Angeles Actually Become a Reality?

11:05 AM PDT on May 15, 2018

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he entrepreneur Elon Musk is almost done building a model tunnel meant to eventually help solve the epic traffic woes of Los Angeles, but it remains unclear if or when average Angelenos will be able to take a ride through it.

    Musk revealed on social media late last week footage of the tunnel prototype that his outfit, The Boring Company, is currently building under the city of Hawthorne. That’s where Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX is located. (To “bore,” by the way, is to dig.)

    Musk said last Thursday that the public would be able to get a demo ride for free in a “few months.” However, Reuters reports that the Hawthorne City Council in August 2017 said that no vehicles or people would be using the prototype being built under their city. The actual length of the current model is not clear, but reports say it began at 350 or 500 feet and is now two miles long.

    Still, Musk, creator of the troubled Tesla vehicle, caused a splash with the video, which shows lighting, equipment, and workers in a tube-like tunnel. “Once fully operational [...] the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians & cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket.”

    RELATED: Meet the Pissed Off Bicyclist Watchdog Fighting For Safer Streets In L.A.

    The tunnel is designed to transport people, cyclists, and passengers underground on autonomous electric skates and at speeds topping 125 mph. The Boring Company states that its tunnel design is more efficient and less expensive than traditional subway or freeway tunnels, in part because it is narrower, and the construction is “continuous.”

    Musk wants to build Phase 1 of his plan along the 405 on the Westside.

    [dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]usk’s plan stemmed from his initial desire to make his own commute — from Bel-Air to Hawthorne — less stressful. Eventually, if he gets regulatory approvals in Los Angeles, Musk hopes to build the first phase of a transport tunnel along the 405 freeway on the Westside, with plans to eventually connect the Valley with Westwood and LAX. Farther into the future, Musk would take his tunnel project to downtown Los Angeles and to the Long Beach airport.

    The leftist indie publication Knock LA pointed out that Musk’s plans to bore on the Westside expose his extreme privilege. “That someone could be so shameless as to literally redraw a city in their own image and present it to the world as a glorious and far-reaching vision is gross and ought to be mocked, not celebrated,” said writer John Perry.

    In addition, skeptics have pointed out that tunnels do not necessarily ease traffic on the surface. Indeed, such projects could even cause more traffic, said Curbed LA.

    Image via The Boring Company.

    The congestion at the entry points and exit points would be enormous,” an L.A. Metro official told Curbed. “You can’t improve the capacity in the corridor without addressing how people get to the corridor itself.”

    The Los Angeles Times reports that two neighborhood organizations have filed a lawsuit contesting the proposal to fast-track approval processes for Musk’s tunnels, citing state-mandated environmental reviews.

    “There's pressure in Silicon Valley for companies to move fast and break things,” Meghan Sahli-Wells, vice mayor of Culver City, told paper. “But those companies don't have to pick up the pieces. … We're not going to let them come in here without a plan.”

    Hawthorne officials did not respond to requests for clarification on the prototype tunnel’s length and depth.

    Tesla, Musk’s electric-vehicle company, is currently going through a “thorough reorganization” under duress over its finances and the safety if its vehicles.

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