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Elon Musk is Building Tunnels Again

The Tesla founder has long had his sights set on the Lone Star State.

Along with electric cars and space, the last few years has seen constant talk of Elon Musk and underground tunnels.

The Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report founder first announced the existence of the Boring Company in 2016 and, a year later, unveiled grandiose plans to dig a 30-foot-wide and 50-foot-long plot underneath the SpaceX headquarters in California that would serve as the starting point for an entire underground transportation system from there.

While the project hit delays and snags customary for Musk's boastful promises, the first tunnel system opened in Hawthorne, California in 2020. Those who tested it described the 1.14-mile stretch of underground road as interesting but not yet a viable alternative to LA's congested highways given its very limited reach.

Musk, who often sees even lightly critical commentary as a challenge, has been on a mission to expand the tunnel system to more places and cities. 

Where Are The Tunnels Coming To This Time?

Over the last week, the Boring Company received approval to create the "Vegas Loop" in between the Las Vegas Strip, Harry Reid International Airport, Allegiant Stadium, the city's downtown and at some point Los Angeles. 

"Tunnels minimize usage of valuable surface land and do not conflict with existing transportation systems," the Boring Company says on its website as part of its pitch for underground tunnels. "A large network of tunnels can alleviate congestion in any city; no matter how large a city grows, more levels of tunnels can be added."

It also applied for state and municipal government permission to build a tunnel loop underneath the Tesla Gigafactory Texas. Like the "Vegas Loop," the project is dubbed the "Colorado River Connector Tunnel" and would connect several of the city's main areas in a single underground loop.

"The applicant is proposing a private access tunnel along with associated improvements," reads the very brief application description first unearthed by Electrek.

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While Musk has talked of big plans for the Lone Star State, this is the first such project to get approval.

Why Is Musk So Hung Up On Tunnels?

Musk often presents underground tunnels as the be-all, end-all solution to overwhelming traffic and pollution related to road overcrowding.

Recent estimates say the average American spends 97 hours a year in traffic.

"To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels are needed," the Boring Company says on its website. "Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight, and won't fall on your head."

As LA drivers know the traffic problem all too well, the proposal immediately caught attention in the city. Other American cities, meanwhile, were intrigued but less eager to get started due to the massive expense associated with such a project.

"I don't really see that congestion is going to improve," Tom Ireland, projects director of tunneling at engineering company Aurecon, recently told BBC. "It has to be a different paradigm."

In the last few years, tunnels have also taken a back seat among Musk's other projects -- issues with Tesla engines catching fire have been facing scrutiny from regulators and Musk's attempts to take over Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Twitter Inc. Report for $44 billion.

But as the string of movements to build more underground system shows, more tunnels are definitely on their way. In April, the Boring Company announced that it raised $675 million in a funding round for a total valuation of $5.675 billion.