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Vegas Loop System Approved

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

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The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recently announced that the Clark County Commission unanimously approved an agreement for The Boring Company’s Las Vegas Loop system. The 29-mile tunnel transportation system is designed by the Elon Musk-owned company and became operational in June.

The agreement, approved Oct. 20, provides a special use permit to apply and receive building permits to construct the tunnels and reportedly allows the company to operate the system, collect fares and oversee advertising and partnerships.

The proposed plans include 51 stations throughout the Las Vegas Strip and Clark County, connecting the city to McCarran International Airport. The LVCVA says that the Vegas Loop will be a “must-experience attraction for visitors.”

“We are very excited to take the next steps, working with Clark County leaders and our partners throughout Las Vegas, to build a fast, safe transportation system for this incredible destination,” said Steve Davis, President of TBC.

“Las Vegas continues to innovate and transform itself. The Vegas Loop will be a game-changer for our visitors in moving them around our exciting destination quickly, conveniently and in an entertaining ‘Only Vegas’ way,” said Steve Hill, President and CEO of the LVCVA.

According to the press release, development funding for the project is provided by TBC and passenger stations are paid for by respective property owners. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop runs free of charge, but the Las Vegas expansion of the Loop will be fare-based for passengers.

Las Vegas Tunnel History

In March 2019, TBC was approved by the LVCVA’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 2019, 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 2020, 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.

In April, the project was reportedly on track, despite a $79 million budget cut to the LVCVA and new COVID-19 protocols. In addition to the update, LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill said that the people-mover’s second mile-long tunnel was “making exceptionally good progress” and was actually ahead of schedule as crews had also begun excavating the underground station.

By June, TBC announced that it had completed its second tunnel. In the next steps of the Convention Center Loop project, crews were slated to start 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.

In a meeting in November, the Las Vegas City Planning Commission approved to connect the LVCC center set of tunnels to a future tunneling system that would eventually lead downtown. Although, the Commission is scheduled to cast a final vote on the matter tomorrow, Dec. 16.

If approved, the downtown tunnel would begin at LVCC, run through the Las Vegas Boulevard, connect to Ogden, and lead back into Main Street, but also includes stops at McCarran International Airport, Allegiant Stadium and a variety of casinos.

However, transportation experts were displeased about the possible expansion, citing that TBC’s plans fail to address basic problems that transportation models addressed years ago. Those issues included the insufficient use of space and lack of accessibility for disabled riders, among other things.

Despite the backlash, at the beginning of the month TBC shared additional renderings of what the tunnel system might look like, revealing a futuristic vibe, complete with neon lights and even a sound system. In Teslarati’s news release, the company refers to the LVCC site like a “tunnel rave” party.

The construction of the LVCC system was nearing completion and planned to be operational by January 2021.

In December, the Las Vegas City Planning Commission approved TBC’s plans to expand its network of tunnels and add several stops under the city. A final vote on the project’s expansion was slated to take place sometime later that month.

What’s Next

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the 50-year franchise agreement will allow the permit process to begin and lead to the start of construction for the 15-mile dual loop system. The Commission’s approval is only for the route, but each of the 51 stops will need separate land use permits and a separate franchise agreement for underground portion.

Davis explained in the interview that the system is planned to be built in phases, with initial plans calling for five to 10 stations coming online within the first six months of constructions starting.

“The most important thing is the express nature of this,” Davis said. “In Las Vegas you have a very populated, very impressive resort or property and you have 51 stations that’s being proposed here and (if) you have to stop at every one, that’s a very, very long trip. If you can get in a vehicle and not wait for the vehicle, walk into a station and the vehicle is waiting for you. And go directly to your (destination) station, you can really solve the traffic problem.”

TBC will have to reportedly complete construction in three years, provide the county a detail financial statement each year and pay the county a quarterly franchise fee based on revenue generated.

“This should expand further,” Davis said. “Additional communities, hopefully to Los Angeles at some point, once our tunneling speed can justify it, which it cannot today but it will pretty soon.”

   

Tagged categories: Expansion; Hyperloop; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Roads/Highways; Transportation; Tunnel

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