Las Vegas is betting that The Boring Company can have a new automated people mover system for the city’s Convention Center complex ready by the end of 2020, awarding a $48.7 million contract for a nearly one-mile express-loop tunnel system.
Scheduled to begin construction in September, the project calls for twin tunnels connecting three underground stations to be located around the 200-acre Convention Center complex, which is currently undergoing a $935 million expansion program that will add 1.4 million square feet of space. According to The Boring Company, the system will use modified autonomous Tesla electric vehicles that carry up to 16 passengers each, providing a full operational system capacity of 4,400 passengers per hour. A complete trip on the loop would take approximately one minute, according to the company.
The project marks the first commercial contract for the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company since it was established in 2016 by entrepreneur Elon Musk. Aside from a 1.1-mile test tunnel near its headquarters, no other Boring Company projects have progressed beyond the environmental review and permitting stage. A tentative agreement with the city of Chicago to construct a new tunnel connection between downtown and O’Hare International Airport, announced last summer, appears to have stalled with the recent departure of project supporter Rahm Emanuel from the mayor’s office.
Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expressed no qualms about tapping The Boring Company’s untested technology in favor of more conventional, and more expensive, surface transportation alternatives. In a statement, Hill said the city “will continue to elevate the experience of our visitors with innovation, such as with this project, and by focusing on the current and future needs of our guests.”
Funding for the people mover system will come from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority’s general fund. The Boring Company won’t be playing with house money, however, as its fixed-price contract calls for payments to be made upon completion of specific construction milestones, as well as a full refund if the project is not completed. Post-construction penalties will also be assessed should the system fail to operate at full capacity during the first 15 Convention Center events. That includes the system’s scheduled January 2021 debut at the Consumer Electronics Show, which attracted more than 182,000 attendees earlier this year.
Nevertheless, The Boring Company asserts via its website that the convention center project could be the first step in a potential city-wide network linking downtown Las Vegas, the Strip and McCarran International Airport, with a possible future extension to Los Angeles.