Elon Musk spoke with Miami's mayor about building a $30 million tunnel under the city

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Elon Musk spoke with Miami's mayor about building a $30 million tunnel under the city
The tunnel would only take six months to build, according to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.Robyn Beck/Pool via REUTERS
  • Miami's mayor is interested in Elon Musk's plan to build a tunnel under Miami's congested downtown.
  • Musk said his startup, The Boring Company, could dig a tunnel for $30 million in six months.
  • Musk claims the project would "solve traffic" in Miami, but critics aren't convinced.

Miami appears to be one step closer to having a system of Elon Musk-built tunnels running under the city.

Musk and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez spoke Friday about the potential for congestion-reducing tunnels built by the entrepreneur's Boring Company, a startup that wants to build networks of underground roads for electric vehicles.

"I think we have a unique opportunity to create a signature project not just for Miami, but for the world," Suarez said in a video posted to Twitter following the call. "[Musk is] focused on trying to deliver a project that will have the maximum utility for our residents for the least amount of money. The order of magnitude in terms of cost savings is significant."

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According to Suarez, Musk said the tunnel would cost around $30 million and would take six months to complete. In 2018, Miami-Dade County transit officials had estimated that the project - which seeks to create a two-mile-long tunnel under the Miami River - would cost nearly $1 billion and would span four years, The Miami Herald reported.

Musk expressed interest in boring tunnels under Miami last month, when he tweeted: "Cars & trucks stuck in traffic generate megatons of toxic gases & particulate, but @boringcompany road tunnels under Miami would solve traffic & be an example to the world."

Read more: Elon Musk is an entrepreneur, and Tim Cook isn't - and that's why the overhyped Apple Car is going nowhere

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Digging tunnels under US cities is notoriously expensive. New York's Second Avenue Subway line cost an astronomical $2.6 billion per mile, and the cost per mile for other underground rail systems in the country tends to be in the range of $200 million to $900 million, according to transit researcher Alon Levy.

But Musk's company claims it can bore tunnels for much less, in part because the underground motorways will be designed for EVs and built using electric tunneling equipment, so they won't need the same rigorous and costly venting as other tunnels. Musk is also the CEO of electric-car maker Tesla.

Suarez did not say how the project would be funded, but said he would discuss the project with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County's mayor.

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The Boring Company is working on several tunnel projects around North America. It is close to opening the first leg of a network under Las Vegas that would use Teslas to ferry passengers to key destinations like the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Strip, and the airport.

Detractors of the plans say that Musk has essentially reinvented public transit, but with lower-capacity vehicles. They also argue that tunneling ignores the issue of induced demand - when adding extra lanes on a highway, for instance, invites more people to drive rather than reducing congestion.

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