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Musk Offers to Tunnel in Australia

Monday, January 21, 2019

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Last week, billionaire Elon Musk, founder of the Boring Company, offered New South Wales parliament member Jeremy Buckingham a tunnel that would run from near Lithgow to outside of Penrith in a bid to alleviate traffic congestion.

Musk estimates that the tunnel, running 50 kilometers (30 miles) under the Blue Mountains, would cost $15 million a kilometer. In response, engineers have expressed doubts over the estimated cost.

Boring Company Saga

In contrast, the Boring Company estimates on its website that a tunnel can cost up to $1 billion per mile at conventional rates. If the endeavor moves forward, this would be the company’s first project outside of the U.S.

(Musk is in the middle of several projects in the states, and at the end of November, the Boring Company was forced to drop plans for a tunnel running beneath Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles because of a lawsuit.)

Engineer and hydrogeologist Philip Pells, serving as a member of senior personnel on Sydney's harbour and Eastern Distributor tunnels, criticized Musk’s cost prediction, calling it “totally out of the ball park.” Pells also alleged that the billionaire is “out by at least a factor of 10 and up to a factor of 50.”

"The difficulties of this sort of project are substantial,” said Pells. “I'm not trying to knock the guy, but he's not going to be able to build a tunnel through the Blue Mountains for $1 billion."

Transport for NSW did its own cost estimation for the Blue Mountains project, arriving at a price tag of $6 billion for a road and rail tunnel and $3 billion for a road tunnel. The addition of ventilation and emergency egress would drive up the cost further.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, other concerns include geotechnical conditions and integrating execution with preexisting transportation networks.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Infrastructure; OC; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Tunnel

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