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

9:40 AM PDT on April 19, 2018

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.

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