Las Vegas Loop Wins Approval for Expansion
Recently, the Las Vegas City Planning Commission approved Elon Musk-owned The Boring Company’s plans to expand its network of tunnels and add several stops under the city.
However, a final vote on the project’s expansion is slated to take place sometime in December.
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.
Tunnel Rave pic.twitter.com/d3JKOIAsy7— The Boring Company (@boringcompany) December 4, 2020
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.
In April, the project was reportedly on track, despite a $79 million budget cut to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority 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, the Boring Company 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.
Expansion, First Looks
In a meeting last month, 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.
"We’re very excited this is finally coming to fruition and we’re fully in support of being part of this and having the loop come right to our front door," said Greg Stevens, Circa Resort & Casino, "We’re going to be happy to put in one of the first stations right in our garage Mahal to hopefully get people directly from the Strip, or from the airport, or the game, directly to downtown Las Vegas. So, I think it’s a great thing for downtown.”
However, transportation experts are displeased about the possible expansion, citing that The Boring Company’s plans fail to address basic problems that transportation models addressed years ago. Those issues include the insufficient use of space and lack of accessibility for disabled riders, among other things.
"This is not a transit system. It's a system for driving electric vehicles underground," Gerry Tierney, co-director of the mobility lab at Perkins&Will told CNN.
Despite the backlash, at the beginning of the month The Boring Company 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 is nearing completion and plans to be operational by January 2021.