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October 17, 2019

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Tourism board OKs $48 million for underground people mover in L.V.

Musk boring

The Boring Company via AP

This undated conceptual drawing provided Elon Musk’s The Boring Company shows a high-occupancy Autonomous Electric Vehicle (AEV) that would run in a tunnel between exhibition halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center proposed for Las Vegas.

Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | 6:40 p.m.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors on Wednesday approved a contract with an Elon Musk company to build an underground people mover at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman was the lone dissenting vote on the 14-member board as it approved a $48.6 million contract with The Boring Co.

LVCVA CEO Steve Hill said noticeable work on the project is expected to begin later this summer.

The contract vote was part of an LVCVA budget hearing as the board also approved a 2020 budget of just over $252 million.

Goodman had publicly opposed the contract with Boring, mainly, she’s said, because of the company’s lack of experience. The company was founded by Musk in 2016.

Hill said the lower cost of the Boring people-mover system, when compared with other proposals, was a factor, but he added that it wasn’t the only factor.

“This was certainly quite a bit less expensive than the alternatives that we saw,” Hill said after the meeting. “That’s the easy thing to point to, but this is a system that has high capacity, it’s innovative and fun, and we think it provides a great customer experience.”

While some details of the project still need to be worked out, the people mover will transport passengers around the convention center campus in underground electric vehicles.

Such vehicles, according to Boring’s website, can reach speeds of up to 155 mph.

“This is truly a unique and one-of-a-kind project,” said the board’s vice chairman, Bill Noonan. “People will come from all over the country to see it.”

Hill and other board members also talked about the possibility of Boring’s underground system to eventually proliferate to some of the other popular Las Vegas destinations.

“(Las Vegas) has been looking for congestion solutions for decades,” Hill said. “This project is going to be a real benefit to our customers, but it also has an opportunity because it’s innovative and leads to a low-cost system, to help solve congestion problems not only in the resort corridor, but throughout the community.”

The total cost of the project for the LVCVA is expected to be about $52.5 million. Up to 16 people could fit into one of the autonomous underground cars.

Goodman, who questioned the board’s decision to move forward on a contract with Boring earlier this month, did not speak during Wednesday’s hourlong meeting.

A handful of board members, however, acknowledged her concerns, though they voted to move forward with Boring.

“When Mayor Goodman speaks, we all listen,” said board member Peggy Leavitt. “I appreciate and love Mayor Goodman, but I think it’s good we could come to a consensus about this. This has such great potential.”

Hill said the permitting process will likely begin immediately with construction likely to start around Labor Day. The system is expected to be complete in time for CES 2021.

Hill and others have pointed to the fact that above-ground operations at the convention center will be largely undisturbed by the construction process. That’s key, Hill said, because customers book convention space years in advance.

“We want to do this in a way that makes our customers comfortable,” Hill said. “We think it’s possible to have opened this in that time frame, but that’s something we’ll have to work with CES on to make sure they’re comfortable.”

The project, according to the contract between the LVCVA and Boring, will include three underground passenger stations, a pedestrian tunnel and two vehicle tunnels totaling about a mile, and an escalator or elevator system to bring passengers to one of the underground stations.

The Boring Co. was one of two finalist companies chosen by a six-person LVCVA panel after a request for proposals was put out for a new transportation system at the convention center.

The other company was Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group of Austria. That’s the firm Goodman wanted instead of Boring.