FORT LAUDERDALE — The out-of-the-box prospect of building a tunnel to the beach jumped one more hurdle this week.
Late Tuesday, Fort Lauderdale commissioners formally accepted a bid from Elon Musk’s Boring Co. to build an underground tunnel from downtown to State Road A1A.
Other companies that want to submit a competing bid can do so within 45 days.
Mayor Dean Trantalis touts the tunnel as an innovative way to tackle traffic congestion downtown, but says the project still has more “milestones” to meet before it’s a done deal.
“It must be something the community feels it needs and we can afford,” he said. “And it needs to help solve some of our acute traffic problems. We’ll see where this goes.”
Boring Co. officials have told city officials they can get it done for around $10 million to $12 million a mile — for a total of $60 million to $72 million.
Details were not available Tuesday as state law prohibits city officials from discussing or releasing the specifics of the unsolicited bid. In 45 days, at the end of the competitive bidding process, those details can be made public.
Charlie Ladd, a local developer and chair of the Downtown Development Authority, says it’s a project worth exploring.
“Anything we can do to move people is big,” he said. “Because we’re not going to build any more roads.”
Not everyone is sold on the project.
Commissioner Robert McKinzie cast the lone no vote Tuesday night.
McKinzie, who did not say why he voted against the tunnel project during the meeting, could not be reached for comment.
Some residents have expressed skepticism about the underground tunnels.
Randy King, a longtime resident of Las Olas Isles, called the idea “beyond stupid” in an email to City Hall.
“Hopefully we don’t waste more money on ‘studying’ something that doesn’t work,” King wrote. “In spite of the fact it doesn’t really affect traffic, do we really want to open up caverns under the ground in light of what happened in Surfside? Do you want to lose power in that 3 mile tunnel? Please stop the insanity at the local government level.”
Boring Co. officials have told Fort Lauderdale leaders the tunnel project can be done even in flood-prone South Florida.
Trantalis, for one, believes them.
“We have two tunnels in South Florida,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. “One is in Fort Lauderdale and one is in Miami.”
Trantalis envisions a pair of 3-mile underground tunnels — one for each direction — that would transport riders from downtown to the beach for as little as $5 a pop. The tunnels, each 12 feet wide, would transport passengers under Las Olas Boulevard all the way to State Road A1A, with several stops along the way.
Ladd says it’s not all that surprising the city has naysayers out there.
“I don’t know enough to know whether it will work or not,” he said. “But we need to explore it to see if we can make it happen. Every major project ever done in the United States has people saying, ‘They can’t do that.’ It’s different and it’s new. But anything we can do to move people with less cars … we should pursue.”