Elon Musk needs to dig a tunnel in Florida. What may go improper?


A car driving into a tunnel.
In Fort Lauderdale, metropolis officers need to construct a tunnel connecting the seashore to town’s downtown. | Ethan Miller/Getty Photographs

Specialists say that such a tunnel could possibly be possible.

Fort Lauderdale is fascinated about utilizing a tunnel to ease visitors on one among its busiest roads, and Elon Musk needs to construct it. This week, Ford Lauderdale’s metropolis authorities accepted a proposal from Musk’s city tunnel-digging outfit, the Boring Firm, to carve out an underground passageway that may ship folks from downtown to the seashore by way of self-driving Teslas.

“These vehicles would go from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the seashore and again with a cease alongside Las Olas, which is our most important restaurant-business boulevard,” Ben Sorensen, Fort Lauderdale’s metropolis commissioner, advised Recode. Now that the proposal has been accepted, different companies have 45 days to submit their very own concepts for a tunnel.

Fort Lauderdale is simply the most recent place the place native authorities officers have explored the concept of underground visitors tunnels crammed with Teslas. However as different cities have struggled to get their Boring Firm tunnels off (or quite, beneath) the bottom, the beginnings of a plan to construct this infrastructure in Fort Lauderdale is already elevating issues that the Boring Firm’s previous issues may repeat themselves — to not point out the added problem of overcoming Florida’s rising sea ranges.

Regardless, Fort Lauderdale and the Boring Firm are assured within the tunnel plan, which has been percolating because the finish of final 12 months, Sorensen stated. Authorities officers have already met with engineers, visited the Boring Firm’s loop in Las Vegas, and even requested state help for the undertaking’s growth. On the similar time, the mayor has develop into one thing of an Elon fan, praising Musk and the Boring firm in his e-newsletter.

Considerations that the undertaking is ill-advised cropped up quickly after it was introduced. Some worry that the tunnel may be a flood danger, given town’s proximity to the ocean and rising sea ranges spurred by local weather change. One other fear is that the Boring Firm has promised decrease prices and quicker building occasions, regardless of engineering and tunnel trade consultants saying the agency doesn’t supply any notably novel means of constructing tunnels. Others have advised that better funding into public transportation may be a greater resolution to town’s visitors congestion downside.

“It’s price investigating whether or not that’s possible from a structural and engineering perspective,” Lily Elefteriadou, the director of the College of Florida’s Transportation Institute, advised Recode. “From a transportation methods perspective, it is sensible to look into alternate options to get folks out of personal autos and see if that may work.”

Tunnels are costly, Elefteriadou defined, and a devoted lane or a rail line would possibly do the trick, relying on the land, funding obtainable, and anticipated ridership.

If the tunnel plan does undergo, consultants advised Recode that water points, together with these exacerbated by local weather change, will influence what sorts of options engineers might want to think about.

“The designers will have a look at what are all the hundreds and conditions that would conceivably exist over that 100- to 150-year time interval,” stated Michael Mooney, a professor on the Colorado Faculty of Mines who focuses on underground building and tunnels. “They’ll have a look at rising sea degree, they’ll have a look at what the design-hurricane occasion can be, after which they’ll design accordingly.”

Water issues may influence how excessive a tunnel’s two ends are constructed, and the specifics of the tunnel’s water-pumping system, Mooney added.

In fact, water shouldn’t be unfamiliar territory to tunnel engineers, and engineers have waterproofed tunnels up to now. Think about a close-by instance: the just lately constructed Port of Miami Tunnel, an undersea tunnel town constructed to attach two islands off the mainland. This undertaking additionally needed to take into consideration the dangers of storm surge and different water challenges. With the Fort Lauderdale tunnel, engineers should think about the realm’s soil circumstances, together with sandy soil and limestone, in keeping with College of Central Florida civil engineering professor Luis Arboleda Monsalve.

“Now we have completed every kind of tunnels in very, very troublesome floor,” Monsalve stated.

However there are nonetheless potential unknowns. “Now we have a greater thought of what can occur within the subsequent 30 years. In 100 years, there are lots of extra uncertainties,” Shimon Wdowinski, an earth and setting professor at Florida Worldwide College, advised Recode. “As everyone is aware of, sea degree is rising.”

Fort Lauderdale shouldn’t be the one metropolis in Florida whose native authorities is being wooed by Musk’s firm. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has already spoken with Musk, and the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, needs a highway tunnel in his metropolis too.

However there’s nonetheless cause to be skeptical. A number of of the Boring Firm’s tunnel proposals by no means took off. One plan to construct a tunnel connecting Chicago’s downtown Loop and its O’Hare Airport didn’t pan out, and the corporate additionally appears to have stalled its plans to construct a loop tunnel between DC and Baltimore. In the meantime, the tunnels the Boring Firm has constructed have but to fulfill the agency’s authentic expectations, and the corporate’s check tunnel in Los Angeles was a far cry from the futuristic designs the corporate initially proposed.

Sorensen, the Fort Lauderdale metropolis commissioner, advised Recode that town hoped to have the ability to transport 4,000 folks on the loop and have vehicles run fully autonomously. However within the Las Vegas tunnel, self-driving vehicles nonetheless haven’t arrived (the Teslas are pushed by people), and, as a result of hearth laws, the system continues to be struggling to spice up the loop’s capability to 4,000.

Fort Lauderdale continues to be ready to see if another corporations will supply their very own proposals to construct this tunnel, although none have expressed curiosity but. In any other case, it appears as if town plans to maneuver ahead, regardless of the issues.

“It must be taken under consideration that for 30 years, it could work, however possibly afterward not,” Wdowinski stated. “That is as much as the decision-maker to determine.”

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