Vegas Loop TBM Surfaces at First Station
Earlier this month, The Boring Company announced that its tunnel boring machine has surfaced near Resorts World in Las Vegas, setting up the next steps for the Vegas Loop’s first station. The tunneling progress of the TBM, Prufrock-1, officially connects the Las Vegas Convention Center to Resorts World via the LVVC and Vegas Loop.
An agreement for the Vegas Loop was unanimously approved by the Clark County Commission in October last year, with the proposed plan including 51 stations throughout the Las Vegas Strip and Clark County and connecting to the city to the McCarran International Airport.
According to reports, the Vegas Loop’s first steps were to connect to Resorts World and Wynn Las Vegas, which both have agreements with TBC. After that, it’s unclear what the next steps will be for construction.
Signs pointing towards the future station at Resorts World popped up in July 2021 in preparation for the tunnel system.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority reported at CES 2022 that the LVCC Loop transported between 15,000-17,000 passengers daily, while TBC aims to carry 57,000 passengers per hour with the Vegas Loop.
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.
In October last year, the Clark County Commission unanimously approved an agreement for TBC’s Las Vegas Loop system, providing 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.”
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.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported 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.
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 construction starting.
About the Prufrock TBM
Prufrock arrived in Las Vegas in July last year and was set up at a construction site north of the LVCC Loop’s Station 3. The TBM differs from TBC’s previous tunneling machine, Godot+, which was used to dig for the LVCC Loop, in that it designed to “porpoise” from the surface directly out of the ground at an angle.
The maneuverability of the TBM is also reportedly critical, allowing passenger drop-offs to be close to hotel main entrances.
According to the company, TBC’s medium-term goal for Prufrock is to exceed 1/10 of human walking speed, or about seven miles per day. Currently, it is designed to tunnel at a speed greater than one mile per week, six times faster than Godot+.
TBC designed Prufrock to construct infrastructure projects in a shorter time span and decrease costs. The machine is able to begin mining within 48 hours of arrival on a construction site, with precast segments being installed alongside mining to eliminate the need for the TBM to stop every five feet.
Rails do not need to be installed at sites, as the TBM utilizes rubber-wheeled segment trucks. Tunnel size is reduced to a 12-foot diameter, maintaining the same diameter for all projects to avoid “reinventing the wheel” for each project.
In terms of sustainability, the tunneling equipment is all-electric, requiring simpler ventilation methods due to the lack of diesel fumes. TBC also plans to repurpose the excavated tunnel dirt, for uses such as bricks and pavers for housing projects and embankment beautification.