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Boring Completes Second Las Vegas Tunnel

Friday, June 5, 2020

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Just last month, Elon Musk’s The Boring Company announced that it had completed its second tunnel in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s future underground express transportation system project.

The tunnel runs parallel to the first, measuring roughly one mile long and 40 feet below the surface. The second tunnel also took only three months to complete.

Las Vegas Tunnel History

In March 2019, The Boring Co. was approved by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority’s board of directors for the construction of an underground express tunnel connecting downtown Las Vegas, the city’s convention center, airport and other points of interest.

The LVCVA selected TBC as one of the firms to enter exclusive contract negotiations to design, construct and operate a Loop system for the Las Vegas Convention Center. The loop is to provide a fast and convenient transportation option for convention and trade show attendees on the LVCC campus.

The LVCVA hopes to allow 4,400-11,000 people to use the system per hour. However, that kind of volume would depend on the station sizes and number of vehicles, estimated to be between 90 and 140, within the tunnels. Once inside an AEV, which are Tesla Model X and Model 3 vehicles, the modified chassis will be able to transport up to 16 passengers with sitting and standing room at 155 miles per hour.

By May, a $48.6 million contract with TBC was approved for the construction on the LVCC Loop. Clocking in at a fraction of the $215 million bid for an elevated rail system, although, more funding was slated to present itself as TBC continued to hit milestones: $2.5 million for excavation of the first station and $3.2 million for completing the first 100 feet of tunnel. All system infrastructure will have to be built on payments that total less than $14 million.

However, if the system cannot support full passenger capacity during the first year and a half of operation, TBC will face a penalty of $300,000 per event, which caps at $4.5 million.

In October, construction work on the project officially entered operation with reports indicating that the boring machine would likely emerge from the other side of its work in January, assuming there were no delays.

In January, TBC’s President Steve Davis announced the possibility for additional underground transit systems throughout the Las Vegas resort corridor, should the current convention center tunnel prove to be a success. Once profitable, Davis envisions that tourism industry stakeholders will be ready to move forward with ongoing talks about expanding the system from the airport to the Strip and into downtown.

Work on the aboveground stations for the underground rail transportation also began last month. The stations are reported to include elevator and escalator access to the tunnels, underground stations, pedestrian protection from the elements, video surveillance, WiFi and vehicle tunnel access points.

The following month, TBC announced that it had finished boring the first tunnel for the project, by the convention center’s West Hall. Completed in only three months’ time, the boring machine was then disassembled and transported by trucks to the convention center’s South Hall, where it was reassembled and began boring the second and final one-mile-long tunnel in the $52.5 million project.

What’s Happening Now

In a video released mid-May, viewers can see that as the drill hit the final wall, two columns of concrete filled with mud and water collapsed to the floor of the tunnel, revealing a “You can’t stop Vegas,” sign on the opposite side.

TBC’s tunnel borer emerged near the southwest corner of the 1.4 million-square-foot West Hall convention center. Currently undergoing an expansion, also in May, LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill stated in a report to board directors that the $930.3 million project was 81% complete.

“This milestone not only helps usher in the future of transportation in Las Vegas, but it signals the destination’s ability to push through during trying times and continue to meet the evolving needs of our visitors,” Hill said.

In the next steps of the Convention Center Loop project, crews will begin paving the roadways within the tunnels, with paving already having begun in Tunnel 1. Tunnel 2 pavement work was expected to kick off in the upcoming weeks. The tunnel build-out will also require the installation of lights, electrical, communication, fire, and life safety systems.

Unlike traditional subway systems, the tunnel roadways have no touch hazards—such as electrified third rails—providing a safe path for pedestrians in the event of an emergency.

Once in operation, the Loop system will employ 62 all-electric vehicles on Tesla auto chassis, working in self-driving modes. Although the vehicle design has yet to be completed, reports indicate that each pod will have a capacity of 16 people, and can be platooned with one another, like a train, to accommodate larger demands.

The tunnels run beneath the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center and will have the power to transport pedestrians from one end to the other in just two minutes.

In addition to finishing tunnel construction, three stations—two above ground, and one below—are also being built. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, the above-ground stations will be located at the end points of the tunnels, however the third underground station will be close to the Convention Cent’s main entrance.

The project is still slated for completion by January 2021, in time for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Additionally, Hill adds that with the nearly completed transit project, he believes talks will begin between TBC and other tourist leaders on the expansion of the Convention Center Loop. Hill envisions that one day the underground transit system will be able to connect the resort corridor and McCarran International Airport.


Tagged categories: Construction; Hyperloop; Infrastructure; Mass transit; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Public Transit; Rail; Transportation; Tunnel

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