- On May 17, Elon Musk outlined his Boring Company’s plan to build a test tunnel for a high-speed transit system underneath several neighbourhoods of Los Angeles, California.
- Two community groups, made up of LA residents, filed a lawsuit against the City of LA, because local officials will allow the company to bypass a formal environmental review. The groups also claim that the Boring Company is leaving community members out of the process.
- “The tunnel could be the most forward-thinking idea in the world. But if that’s true, then why isn’t the project moving forward in a transparent way that’s required by code?” one resident questioned.
- At the event on May 17, a Boring Company executive said the startup will “do everything right.”
Elon Musk has a grand vision for alleviating Los Angeles’ gridlock: a high-speed tunnel system dubbed Loop that would carry residents underground at 150 mph. Since 2016, his tunnelling startup, the Boring Company, has been working on realising that vision in LA – which could become a reality.
At an event on May 17, Musk announced that his company will work with the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) to build a 2.7-mile test tunnel. The project will stretch underneath Sepulveda Boulevard on LA’s Westside, one of the most traffic-clogged areas of the city.
But some residents are not completely on board. They claim that the Boring Company did not follow the City of LA’s Charter mandate process, which would have required an opportunity for city departments and residents to offer input to decision-makers before the project was approved. In April, the City Council’s public works committee also exempted the test tunnel from a formal environmental review.
In early May, two community groups that are comprised of Los Angelenos – the Brentwood Residents Coalition and the Sunset Coalition – filed a lawsuit against the City of LA and the LA Board of Building and Safety Commissioners for speeding up the project.
The Boring Company worked with environmental consultants to prepare a 1,500-page environmental study on the project, which was one reason why the city exempted it from the normal environmental review.
“Building on the public meeting last week, to which we invited over 125 community groups, we will continue to engage as many local stakeholders as possible before embarking on any major public project,” a company spokesperson told Business Insider. “Our goal is simply to do something useful and exciting by making a fast, safe, clean and affordable mass-transit system for the people of LA.”
The LA’s Office of the City Attorney declined to comment.
Wendy-Sue Rosen, an LA resident and president of the Brentwood Coalition, told Business Insider that she feels the city has largely left the community out of the test tunnel’s approval process.
“This project seems to be big on ideas and short on details,” Rosen said.
City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino told the LA Times that they want to fast-track Musk’s proposal and bypassing an environmental review could shave months – or even years – off the Boring Company’s construction time. Buscaino added that the review would “delay innovation in our city.”
The lawsuit, obtained by Business Insider, raises several concerns, including the tunnel’s potential geological impacts, whether utilities would be affected, and if taxpayer money would partially fund the project. The groups also question whether it is safe to dig beneath a region that’s prone to earthquakes.
On the question of risks to utility lines, Musk said at the event that the Boring Company’s machines will dig below them.
“Once you get below 20 or 30 feet… it’s just rock, basically,” he said.
The 26-page document claims that one resident recently contacted the Building and Safety Commission and asked for more information on the project. But a representative from the commission allegedly told the resident that they were “instructed not to give him anything.”
Rosen said she would like residents – especially those who live where the Boring Company will build the test tunnel – to have more of a say in the plans.
“The tunnel could be the most forward-thinking idea in the world. But if that’s true, then why isn’t the project moving forward in a transparent way that’s required by code?” she said.
The test tunnel is part of a larger plan to construct Loop, a zero-emissions transit system that would travel from downtown LA to the LA International Airport in just eight minutes. By car, the same trip takes about 45 minutes.
The Loop pods could fit 16 people, and fares could cost as little as $US1 per person, Musk said at the recent event. But the actual cost would likely require input from multiple local and regional agencies.
The only entrance to the test tunnel may be located in what’s currently a lumber yard and welding area, according to the company. Its proposed route runs parallel to Sepulveda Boulevard, starting at Pico Boulevard downtown and as far south as Washington Boulevard in Culver City.
In a CNBC interview on Monday, Culver City Mayor Thomas Small said that while he’s “very excited about alternative modes of transportation,” his team would like to understand Boring’s business plan.
“If they’re going to have a dollar-a-ride program, how are they going to make that work? If it’s a private company, how are they going to make a profit on that? We’re concerned that, sometimes when things sound too good to be true, they turn out to be that,” Small told CNBC.
At the event on May 17, Boring Company executive Steve Davis reassured the crowd.
“You won’t hear us, you won’t see us, you won’t feel us,” he said. “We are going to do everything right. We are going to be the best possible community member.”
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