Fort Lauderdale to pay Elon Musk’s company to study tunnel plan for the city

City agreed to pay as much as $375K to The Boring Company to determine the best path and total cost of a so-called Las Olas Loop linking downtown to the beach

The Boring Company's LVCC Loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center (The Boring Company, Getty)
The Boring Company's LVCC Loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center (The Boring Company, Getty)

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is a step closer to achieving his tunnel vision for Fort Lauderdale.

The city will pay his tunnel business, The Boring Company, to study the cost and feasibility of an underground loop for vehicles shuttling passengers between downtown Fort Lauderdale and the city’s beach. It is known as the Las Olas Loop project, aimed at relieving traffic congestion.

City commissioners voted 3-1 on Tuesday to make up to $375,000 for a due diligence analysis of the loop project proposed by Musk’s company. Commissioner Robert McKinzie cast the sole dissenting vote.
Some residents of Fort Lauderdale who spoke publicly at the commission meeting criticized the proposed vehicular tunnels as traffic choke points if one vehicle becomes disabled, and cited potential flooding hazards during a downpour or storm surge.

The Boring Company’s initial estimates of the cost of a two-tunnel loop linking downtown and the beach ranged from $60 million to $90 million, Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom told the commission.

“It would be a first for Florida,” he said.

The city will reimburse The Boring Company for work to determine the optimal path for two underground tunnels between the beach and downtown and the system’s “guaranteed minimum price,” Lagerbloom said.

The maximum reimbursements are $50,000 for an analysis of alternatives to the planned tunnels, $100,000 for preliminary architectural and civil drawings of tunnels and stations, and $225,000 for a geotechnical report.
The commission approved these maximum payments as part of an interim agreement between the Texas-based company and the city to pursue a comprehensive agreement for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a two-tunnel system.

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Tasks on the company’s to-do list under the interim agreement include on-site geophysical scanning to locate underground utilities, and “potholing” utility lines to confirm their depth. The Boring Company also must develop a plan to construct the launch location, stations, and ancillary facilities for the underground loop. Terms of the interim agreement require the company to file a project progress report to the city every 30 days. The interim agreement will remain in effect until superseded by a comprehensive agreement or terminated by mutual consent.

The commission adopted a resolution in October to work with The Boring Company toward potential development of a tunnel system for fast trips between the beach and downtown. The company delivered its unsolicited tunnel proposal to the city in June of last year. City commissioners then authorized a public solicitation for alternate proposals over a 45-day period that ended in August. Two unqualified alternate proposals were rejected as incomplete.

Mayor Dean Trantalis and other commissioners said the potential of a Las Olas Loop tunnel system in Fort Lauderdale is illustrated by The Boring Company’s subterranean loop in Las Vegas.

At a cost of $52.5 million, The Boring Company built a tunnel system beneath the 200-acre campus of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where drivers of electric cars made by Elon Musk’s Tesla traverse two one-way tunnels, each 0.8 miles long, shuttling passengers to their destinations at the sprawling center.

“The numbers are increasing very nicely in terms of the number of people who are using the [Las Vegas] system,” said Fort Lauderdale commissioner Ben Sorenson.

He foresees the potential to extend a similar tunnel system in Fort Lauderdale from the downtown and the beach to Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and Lockhart Stadium. “We need to look at a much bigger picture here,” Sorenson said.