Elon Musk has made no secret that he wants to solve Los Angeles’ traffic woes with underground tunnels, where cars could bolt below the city at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. The billionaire entrepreneur says his project, dubbed Loop, would be a “significant public benefit” that unsnarls traffic.
He claims he can finish burrowing a 17-mile tunnel between Sherman Oaks and LAX by the end of 2018.
The Boring Company, Musk’s tunneling company, is already at work building a test track beneath a two-mile stretch of 120th Street in Hawthorne, and it has applied for permits from the city of Los Angeles to do more tunneling. But large infrastructure projects require much, much more than building permits.
State law demands that they be heavily scrutinized. There’s rigorous environmental analysis, public hearings and outreach, and government reviews before they can even break ground. The Expo Line we know today, for example, was first studied by Metro in 2000.
That said, here are five reasons experts said Angelenos should all be skeptical of Musk and his claims:
1. Environmental analysis alone would take years
Big construction projects, like Musk’s tunnel, are strictly regulated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It requires a fastidious environmental impact review (EIR) designed to rigorously evaluate any and all potential impacts a project could have. Along with an exhaustive analysis of a project’s effect on its local environment, the EIR process generally requires extensive public outreach.
“Technology doesn’t take precedence over the environmental process,” says Joshua Schank, the leader of Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation. “You can have the fastest tunneling machines and the greatest mode of transport, but none of that affects the political or environmental process.”