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Cody Godwin, USA TODAY
The Boring Co., Elon Musk’s tunneling and infrastructure company, is considering the idea of building a tunnel project in downtown Austin, according to documents filed with the city.
The Boring Co., which was founded in California but has moved its headquarters to Pflugerville, is involved in a number of product lines based on tunneling and services to transport passengers between stations using autonomous vehicles at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour . The company has expanded its reach into central Texas, with commercial offices in Pflugerville and a proving ground in Bastrop County.
The Boring Co. has reached out to a number of central Texas cities and entities to discuss the potential for tunneling projects, including the idea of a larger underground tunnel connecting Austin and San Antonio.
A Nov. 3 filing with the City of Austin shows the company is evaluating the possibility of building a project near the Austin Convention Center. The filing describes the project as the “Austin Loop Transportation System,” which may indicate that the project may be similar to the company’s other loop service offerings.
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A spokesman for the city’s development department could not give more information about the project than the filing said, but confirmed it is not part of Project Connect, a multibillion-dollar taxpayer-funded public transportation program.
There are still a few unanswered questions about the possible tunnel project.
The filing with the city indicates that at least some permitting and study steps are underway for such a project. An environmental review has been listed as incomplete since November 9, with an attempt being made. Several other reviews — flood plain, site/subplan, traffic, utility coordination, drainage, and city arborist — are listed as open with planned end dates later this month. A review of transportation planning is listed as not required.
It’s not yet clear what steps remain for the city and state to give the project the green light, or if the Boring Co. has secured tunneling rights in the area.
The filing does not mention Boring Co. by name, but lists the company’s address in Pflugerville on Impact Way and includes the names of several employees. This is similar to how the company’s other proposed projects have been listed in the submissions.
The few details listed for the project are vague, and a note on the description says “keep internally”.
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“The applicant proposes a new development with associated improvements,” says the description. It also lists the project’s address as 400-512 E. Cesar Chavez St., which is the address of the Austin Convention Center.
The project’s name, Austin Loop Transportation System, may indicate that the project is related to Boring Co.’s “loop” offerings, better known as “Tesla in Tunnels.” The Boring Co. describes its Loop product as “an all-electric, zero-emission, high-speed, underground public transit system that transports passengers non-stop to their destinations.” In simpler terms, Tesla vehicles transport passengers through a tunnel that the Boring Co. is building.
A tunnel on the premises or with a stop at the Austin Convention Center would be conceivable. The Convention Center is the home base for South by Southwest and a number of other conferences. Nationally, Boring Co.’s only operating 0.8-mile tunnel is also in a convention center that runs under the center in Las Vegas. This project is also considered a loop service.
At 4.6 million square feet, the Las Vegas Convention Center is significantly larger than Austin’s. However, an Austin project could include other stops downtown or in other parts of the city. The Boring Co. website states that Loop stops are designed to integrate with busy city centers, parking garages and residential areas.
It’s also unclear how long a tunnel Boring Co. is considering could be and how many people it could carry. The loop’s capacity varies based on the number of tunnels and stations, station size, and number of vehicles, according to the Boring Co. website.
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In the Las Vegas system, the loop can carry 4,400 passengers per hour via three major stations. City officials have also approved plans to build a separate project called the Vegas Loop, a 29-mile tunnel that could have about 51 medium-sized stations and carry 57,000 passengers per hour.
The tunneling company has increased its presence in central Texas. This includes a 40,000 square foot commercial office space on Impact Way in Pflugerville. The company has also built an 80,000-square-foot manufacturing and storage facility on a property in Bastrop County, where it plans to test its tunneling equipment and dig “as many tunnels as necessary for research and development purposes,” according to the filing Country. The company had a 1.1-mile test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, which it recently dismantled and converted into a parking lot, according to the Bloomberg News Service.
Elon Musk’s Boring Co. isn’t going to build a tunnel in Kyle, a suburb of Austin, after all
The Boring Co. also has several submissions for the Del Valle area, including plans for a warehouse near Tesla and Neuralink offices. The filing, which reports to an entity called Horse Ranch LLC, is asking for a 220,000-square-foot warehouse on Falwell Lane near the Colorado River and Texas 130. The filing provides few details about what the company has planned other than the size of the warehouse and calls the project a “horse ranch warehouse”.
A June 2022 filing indicated that Boring Co. may also be considering building a tunnel near the Tesla site. The project, called the Colorado River Connector Tunnel, will provide a 2-mile private access tunnel.
The company has seen at least one plan scrapped in central Texas. In November, the City of Kyle confirmed that it would no longer consider Boring Co.-built pedestrian tunnel connecting a retail development at FM 1626 and Interstate 35 called Kyle Crossing to a residential, retail and commercial development called Plum Creek . The project still had several steps to go before it could have been approved, including Boring Co. conducting a feasibility study. However, plans were shelved in August after the Union Pacific Railroad, whose tracks run through the same area, rejected the idea would have. With funds from the Kyle Crossing developer, the City of Kyle paid the Boring Co. $50,000 for a development services contract.