The Wash

Elon Musk’s not-so boring D.C. transit proposal

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has its eyes set on a high-speed transit tunnel from D.C. to Baltimore.

The Boring Company’s test tunnel in California. (Courtesy of The Boring Company)

It sounds like something straight out of the future. An underground, high-speed tunnel to transport you fast as a whip from the depths of D.C. to downtown Baltimore. No beltway traffic to fight through. No overly-caffeinated commuters to contend with.

Add it to the long list of projects dreamed up by Elon Musk. In addition to his plans to revolutionize the car industry and send humans to Mars, Musk envisions a world of high-speed travel.

The Boring Company, one of four companies headed by Musk, has proposed Loop, a high-speed underground public transportation tunnel. The twin tunnels would run for 35 miles from downtown D.C. to downtown Baltimore, beneath New York Avenue and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, according to the company’s website. The electric skates would transport 8-16 passengers at a time.

The east coast sibling to the test tunnel that runs through Hawthorne, California, the Loop would “serve as the central artery for a potential future transportation network which would hopefully be extended to New York,” the proposal stated.

Fred Ducca, transportation director at the University of Maryland research group National Center for Smart Growth, said while “it would be more successful to go from New York to D.C.” the shorter Loop serves as a “demonstration that this will work.”

Clocking in at a proposed 125 to 150 miles per hour, the Loop from D.C. to Baltimore would take about 15 minutes to complete, according to the Boring Company’s website.

The secret to making high-speed travel a reality, according to the Boring Company, is efficient drilling.

“Fast to dig, low cost tunnels would also make Hyperloop adoption viable and enable rapid transit across populated regions, enabling travel from New York to Washington, D.C. in less than 30 minutes,” according to the company’s website.

Construction

Although the Boring Company has released a proposed map of where the Loop tunnels would run throughout D.C., there is no indication of when construction would begin.

The District’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) issued a construction staging permit to the Loop, according to DDOT spokeswoman Lauren Stephens.

The construction staging area permit allows the Boring Company to “temporarily restrict or prohibit public access to portions of a public roadway, alley or sidewalk due to construction or excavation related activities.”

DDOT has not issued a construction permit to begin drilling, Stephens said. Yet, she was unaware if “permits had been granted for work on private property.”

The permit from the D.C. government will allow early excavation of a fenced-off parking lot in the NoMa neighborhood, a proposed Loop station site.

Before getting drill-happy, Ducca urges caution when constructing the tunnels. “The problem they’re going to run into is that they don’t know what’s going to be in the way,” Ducca said.

“They might just be drilling along and run into something they didn’t know was there,” Ducca said.

Although Boring Company has not released a budget, they have announced the cost will be privately funded, with minimal burden placed on the taxpayer.

A transit system with almost no cost to the state is an attractive proposal to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

“Our administration is proud to support The Boring Company to bring rapid electric transportation to Maryland — connecting Baltimore City to D.C.,” Hogan said in a written statement.

Maryland issued a conditional utility permit in October allowing the company to drill under the state roads, according to Hogan’s spokesman.

Although the Loop sounds like something straight out of the future, Musk has delivered on other, out-there ideas. Like launching a Tesla into space.

The Boring Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Liz Weber

Liz Weber

I’m a journalist and current graduate student at American University.

As a freelancer, I wrote for SheExplores on sexual assault in mountain towns and Rock and Ice on eating disorders among adventure athletes. Other publications include Seattle Met, MisAdventures, and Distinctly Montana. I was also an editorial intern at Seattle Met.

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