January 29, 2023

GHOSTING GOVERNMENTS: Is Elon Musk bored with his Boring Company?

GHOSTING GOVERNMENTS: Is Elon Musk bored with his Boring Company?

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Elon Musk’s Boring Co. has left cities around the country in the lurch, despite promises of bringing much-needed infrastructure to help ease traffic problems in metro areas like San Bernadino, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

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The city of Ontario, California is one of the most recent victims of the Tesla CEO’s promises made and promises broken.

Boring Co. razzle-dazzled cities with bold plans to build high-speed tunnels underground to shuttle commuters between airports and other highly trafficked areas – only to back out and abandon the projects when faced with strict regulations.

Billing itself as a company that “creates safe, fast-to-dig, and low-cost transportation, utility, and freight tunnels” on its website, Boring has fallen short of its claims.

In 2020, Boring reached out to San Bernadino Transit Authority officials – promising a less expensive alternative to the billion-dollar planned four-mile commuter rail between the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station and Ontario International Airport. Instead, for just $45 million, the company would build an underground tunnel that transports commuters to their final destination by an autonomously-driven Tesla.

It was a project that would soon be abandoned, like many others.

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“The six-year-old company has repeatedly teased cities with a pledge to “solve soul-destroying traffic,” only to pull out when confronted with the realities of building public infrastructure, according to former executives and local, state and federal government officials who have worked with Mr. Musk’s Boring Co. The company has struggled with common bureaucratic hurdles like securing permits and conducting environmental reviews, the people said,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The authority issued a request for proposals for a light rail line, estimated to cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, when Boring’s pitch showed up,  according to The WSJ, offering a significantly lower-cost solution to the city’s growing problem.

“When I went to the public and shared this, the enthusiasm was overwhelming, just for something new and different,” said Janice Rutherford, a county supervisor and transportation authority board member. “And it’s the Boring Company, so Elon Musk brings that kind of sexiness to it, if you will.”

But the honeymoon wouldn’t last long.

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Towards the end of 2021, the cost of the planned project increased more than 10-fold — ballooning to half a billion dollars. Things came to a screeching halt when the authority, in compliance with California law, asked for a third-party review of Boring’s proposal.

To date, the only finished Boring tunnel project exists in Las Vegas, where passengers are driven at approximately 30 miles an hour under the city’s convention center. The accomplishment was used to bring more investors to the table.

Boring raised $675 million in funding from two venture capital firms, including Sequoia Capital.

“Their technology is now past the state-of-the-art, and improving at an exponential rate,” Sequoia partner Shaun Maguire wrote in a post on the firm’s website, announcing the round.

In 2021, Miami mayor Francis Suarez toured the Las Vegas tunnel, as the city prepared to hire Boring Co. to build a loop around North Miami Beach. Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who accompanied the mayor to Sin City, praised the project.

Suarez “returned a believer,” according to South Florida’s local media affiliate, NBC 6.

He claims that taxpayers would benefit from the privately financed project, allowing the company to charge and keep any monies charged to the riders.

“Everything that you see indicates that our growth is going to continue,” Suarez said. “One of the biggest concerns people share with me is infrastructure, what are we doing to make sure infrastructure keeps pace with this growth.”

“It’s sort of like a monorail system but it’s underground,” Suarez said. “In the sense that instead of it being a monorail, you have a four-passenger, five-passenger car, which is basically a Tesla.”

But not everyone was convinced. The public took to social media to voice their skepticism about the city’s move.

In February of this year, Boring Co. submitted a proposal to the city of North Miami Beach to build a 6.2-mile underground loop in just three years, at a cost between $185 – $200 million – but there has been little mention of its status.

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Occupy Democrats reached out to Mayor Suarez and Commissioner Diaz de la Portilla to ask if the city of Miami planned to continue with the partnership. We are still awaiting a reply.

The city of Ontario scrapped its plans for a light rail in favor of Musk’s grandiose promises, only to be left holding the bag. They are one in an increasingly long line of those “ghosted” by Boring Co. when regulations got in the way.

The Twitter, Tesla, and SpaceX CEO has apparently been too busy trolling and taking social media advice from a fictitious online cat to follow through on his promises.

Original reporting by Ted Mann and Julie Bycowicz at The Wall Street Journal

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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