Boring Company Tunnel Exemption Motion Approved By L.A. Public Works Committee

Boring Company's 2017 map showing a tunnel network. Despite these maps, L.A. City BOE staff asserted today that "there is no bigger project." Image via The Boring Company
Boring Company's 2017 map showing a tunnel network. Despite these maps, L.A. City BOE staff asserted today that "there is no bigger project." Image via The Boring Company

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company’s underground tunnel plan took a step forward today with the L.A. City Council Public Works Committee unanimously approving a motion to exempt an initial tunnel from environmental review.

As outlined in SBLA’s earlier coverage, The Boring Company announced plans for an underground network of private tunnels to whisk cars and people around cities. The first phase proposed is to bore a 2.7-mile tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard in West L.A. and Culver City. The Boring Co tunnel would be in the same place where Metro is planning its voter-approved Sepulveda Transit Corridor project, anticipated to be a subway. L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz put forward a motion to exempt Boring Co’s “proof of concept” tunnel from environmental review under state environmental law (CEQA – the California Environmental Quality Act.)

Since SBLA’s article, a number of voices have weighed in expressing concerns about the initial tunnel project:

  • Metro CEO Phil Washington firmly asserted that, under state law, Boring Co tunnel plans “must be submitted to Metro for approval.”
  • City Councilmember Mike Bonin reiterated Metro concerns.
  • Culver City submitted a comment letter asserting that the proposed exemption appears illegal on multiple grounds including “improperly piecemealing” a large project into smaller components.

City Bureau of Engineering staff eagerly downplayed the scope of what was being approved: only to build a test tunnel to refine construction techniques. Despite The Boring Company’s publicized maps and videos showing an extensive tunnel network, a BOE representative stressed that the tunnel is “not the first piece” and “there is no bigger project.”

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified before the committee that the private tunnel project is “public transit.” Counter to Koretz’ testimony (and challenging Metro authority as outlined it its letter), the BOE stressed that the test tunnel will “not be used by public transit.”

Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and David Ryu were vocal in their praise of The Boring Company’s project. Buscaino asserted that approving the motion was a “no brainer” and that the council should not “delay innovation.” Ryu stated he was “very excited” about Boring Co’s “revolutionary project.”

Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield was ultimately supportive, though expressed some concerns – especially regarding potential city liability. Blumenfield amended the motion to clarify that Metro review and approval would be required, and that the Boring Company would be on the hook for all costs, including any litigation.

The amended motion was approved unanimously by Councilmembers Blumenfield, Buscaino, Ryu, Monica Rodriguez, and Nury Martinez. It will soon go to the full city council for a vote.

BOE staff suggested that construction permits could be issued roughly two months after the BOE receives The Boring Company’s final designs.

  • Jason

    Koretz really is a shameless [expletive deleted] sleazebag–if he’s the one proposing this (and with people like Ryu vocally approving of it, no less) there’s no way this isn’t about trying to block the Sepulveda subway from being built in/adjacent to Westwood.

  • TinLA

    Soo. . .if a 1.5 year old company can somehow get an complete exemption from environmental review for a project under public rights of way, why not give Metro the same benefits? I’m sure they’ll love not having to spend 2-3 years of work to satisfy CEQA requirements as well.

    What makes the Boring Company so special?

  • Ethan

    What percentage of time is 2-3 years of a Metro tunnel project? With TBC it could be 100%. As in TBC could have their tunnel up and using it for testing in 3 years. With Metro the opening day would still be how many years away?

    I’m actually fine with giving Metro the CEQA exemption too, BTW, it’s just that the law as written won’t allow it. If Culver City gets their way, neither will TBC.

  • numble

    For the Regional Connector, it took 4 months to complete 1.1 miles of a larger diameter tunnel.
    https://thesource.metro.net/2018/01/19/tunnel-boring-machine-completes-its-job-on-regional-connector-project/

    The second Crenshaw line tunnel also only took 4 months to complete 1 mile of a larger diameter tunnel.
    https://thesource.metro.net/2017/04/21/crenshawlax-lines-tunnel-boring-machine-officially-retired-at-media-event-and-other-pics-from-project/

  • A lot. The delays in Metro projects generally isn’t the tunneling, it’s the funding flow and environmental work and subsequent lawsuits. Cut out CEQA and everything would get done a LOT quicker.

  • Orcutt

    I guess the pols haven’t noticed that the financial press is starting to call for Musk’s ouster at Tesla thanks to his very long record of overpromising and underdelivering. And that’s a company that at least has a product, if not a profit.

  • johnsmart

    I like Elon Musk. We need more Musk and less NIMBY.

  • TinLA

    I agree, but let the same rules apply to everyone. Making one have to follow the rules when another gets to skip them is unfair. Special favors are not how to run a municipality.

  • SDGreg
  • Hugh Shepard

    When the government tries to build a useful subway line, lawsuits pile, official procceses take years. When a private company builds a tunnel that is very useless and stupid, the city helps clear the way for it to be done fast.

  • María Elena

    Musk is just another white male who thinks he owns California?

    We need stronger government and environmental regulations to stop this. No one can be allowed to compete with government funded projects, stealing their market and turning them into redundant wastes of taxpayer money.

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