Elon Musk says he has 'verbal approval' for a northeast U.S. Hyperloop transit system

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Elon Musk. April 2015 file photo. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, file)
Elon Musk. April 2015 file photo. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, file)

Elon Musk’s passion for tunnels as vast transportation networks is drawing suitors, but in typical Musk fashion he’s stingy with details.

The SpaceX CEO, worth more than $13 billion, tweeted Thursday morning that he scored “verbal govt approval” for his Hawthorne-based Boring Co. to dig a high-speed underground mass-transit system across the northeast corridor.

The White House confirmed talks with the SpaceX and Tesla president about the plan, and Boring Co. officials said they have received overwhelming support from local, state and federal government officials.

“With few exceptions, feedback has been very positive and we have received verbal support from key government decision-makers for tunneling plans, including a Hyperloop route from New York to Washington, D.C.,” The Boring Co. said in a statement Thursday. “We expect to secure the formal approvals necessary to break ground later this year.”

The White House confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that it backs Musk’s plans for a nationwide infrastructure revolution.

“We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector,” the White House said in a statement provided to The Wall Street Journal.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure with the help of private companies.

Musk says his transit loop would connect New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

He believes his Hyperloop technology, which is still in development, could deliver travelers across the longest stretch of the line — New York to Washington — in just 29 minutes. Theoretically, the electric trains could reach near-supersonic speeds of over 700 mph — more than 100 mph faster than the maglev trains popular in Asia.

Each city center would have a major hub, “with up to a dozen or more entry/exit elevators,” Musk said, adding that “support would be much appreciated!”

Much skepticism

But his grandiose-sounding vision wasn’t swallowed easily by the general public. Many people responded with skepticism.

“Sure, because ‘the government’ just approves stuff like this verbally all the time. Which government was it, by the way?” tweeted Howard Sherman, an arts administrator at The New School, a private research university in New York City.

Musk responded: “Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly.”

Eric Phillips, press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, chimed in, tweeting: “This is news to City Hall.”

Musk founded The Boring Co. earlier this year, buying a used tunnel-boring machine, naming it Godot, and putting it to work in the parking lot across from SpaceX headquarters, along Crenshaw Boulevard near 120th Street.

In just a few months, his engineering team completed the tunnel entrance and dug the first 500 feet. Musk has plans for the first 2 miles of the network, which he says will first stop at LAX, but is still awaiting regulatory approval to get going.

The first 2 miles of the traffic-transport tunnel would travel from the parking lot along Crenshaw Boulevard and then east under 120th Street. It would stop just beyond Hawthorne Boulevard, where additional permits would be needed to continue.

While the tunnel starts at a depth of about 20 feet, it would gradually deepen to 43 feet below ground, according to Hawthorne officials.

Not just for pods

Hyperloop mass-transit systems would move passengers at hundreds of miles an hour through pressurized tubes in electric-powered pods. But Musk has said his tunnels also would accommodate cars, pedestrians and bicycles.

“We’re currently getting comments from all the underground utilities and agencies who have live underground substructures” that could be impacted by the project, said Hawthorne’s interim City Manager Arnie Shadbehr. “Tunneling has to meet all the regulatory standards and requirements by the state before we even consider issuing permits. We’re not there yet.”

Musk has historically worked to push past slow government procedures but has struggled to persuade regulators to fast-track his projects.

“Uhhhhh, you know there’s no one person with the power to approve that, right? 6 different states + federal would all get involved,” Alyssa Vance tweeted to Musk.

On Wednesday, at the International Space Station Research & Development conference in Washington, D.C., Musk said he’s struggled to win support for his tunneling ambitions.

“We’re digging a tunnel, and it’s kinda like sorta its oddly enough a low-stress activity cause like everyone expects it to fail,” Musk said. “A groan-worthy joke I make about tunnels is that they have low expectations: There’s no way to go but down. I could keep going.”



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