Tech titan Elon Musk estimates a tunnel for electric vehicles only that would connect Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard under the Brickell Avenue Bridge could be built for as little as $30 million.
In an interview with the Miami Herald following his call with Musk Friday afternoon, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said such a tunnel would help realize a longtime goal of alleviating traffic at a key downtown traffic artery. Musk said it could be built in as little as six months.
How the project would be funded was not discussed, Suarez said.
“For him, it’s not about the money, it’s about creating a solution, creating something that creates happiness and prosperity to the people,” Suarez said.
The tunnel would only be accessible to electric vehicles, since a major point of construction cost savings would be the tunnel’s lack of ventilation. Musk is the CEO of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla.
Suarez said the call lasted about 30 minutes, and that he was unable to discuss deploying Musk’s carbon-capture technology ideas in Miami. He said he was still considering joining a South Florida delegation that will visit tunnels Musk and his Boring Company transportation group have underway in Las Vegas and Southern California.
According to a video statement, Suarez said he would now discuss the concept with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
“This could create a signature project, not just for Miami but the world,” Suarez said in the video.
Suarez would be pushing the revival of a long-theorized but never-realized tunnel under the Miami River. The concept has lingered for decades after former Mayor Maurice Ferré first backed it more than 40 years ago. Suarez and Commissioner Ken Russell, who represented downtown, have said a Brickell tunnel would relieve gridlock in Miami’s fast-growing urban core.
In 2018, Miami-Dade County transit officials estimated a $900 million price tag for a roughly 2-mile tunnel under the river that would take about four years to build.
Such a project would require layers of government approvals, and any kind of formal proposal from Musk’s Boring Company would have to filter in through local agencies and would trigger bidding requirements.
Prior to the call, city staffers discussed talking points for the call with Suarez. On the list: how tunnels would impact the structural integrity of South Florida’s porous limestone bedrock, how impending sea level rise could affect such a project, and how Musk could work with the city on a carbon neutrality plan.
Boring Co. has seen mixed results in getting tunnels constructed in other metros. A project to build an underground express route to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, announced with fanfare in June 2018 by then-mayor and former presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, was torpedoed a year later by current Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot soon after she was sworn in.
Lightfoot viewed the project as unrealistic and unnecessary.
“The notion that [Elon Musk] could do this without any city money is a total fantasy,” Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2019. “And in thinking about what our transportation needs are, I’m not sure that an express train to O’Hare in the current proposal rises to the top of our list.”
Boring has found success out west, where it is in the midst of completing an underground transportation system beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center at a cost of $52.5 million; the track is about a third of a mile. This week, the Board of Commissioners for Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, unanimously approved Boring’s plans to access the right-of-way along Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as The Strip. That followed another unanimous vote, in December, by the Las Vegas City Council approving Boring’s overall plans to expand the convention center loop citywide to include hotels, though city officials described that vote as a first step.
Boring Co. President Steve Davis said in December that the Vegas expansion would be entirely privately funded.
Also this week, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority in Southern California unanimously voted to move forward on a tunnel connecting a train station in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., to Ontario International Airport. The Indian Valley Daily Bulletin reported the initial cost estimate for that four-mile project started at $45 million; Boring Co.’s final proposal to the Authority came in at $85 million.