San Antonio, Texas, in talks for the Boring Co. tunnel system.
(TNS) – When it surfaced two months ago, the idea of Teslas spinning through the underground tunnels between San Antonio International Airport and downtown seemed fanciful.
Now, there is a sign that the idea may have gained traction.
The Boring Co., a tunneling company backed by billionaire Elon Musk, spoke with local leaders about building an underground transportation loop in San Antonio. Musk is the CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla, as well as the founder and CEO of SpaceX.
According to The Boring Co.’s proposal, a fleet of company-driven Teslas would use the underground circuit to commute between the airport and downtown, according to two people familiar with the talks.
On October 1, in what sources described as the first concrete step in seriously exploring the idea, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority formally invited entrepreneurs to submit plans for “a transport project that can transport efficiently and economically the people between the vicinity of the Antonio International Airport and downtown San Antonio. “
Alamo RMA chairman Michael Lynd Jr., a residential real estate developer, said the authority issued the request for airport-downtown plans in “response to a proposal that was submitted to us by a company.” He refused to identify the company. Sources told Express-News that it was The Boring Co.
Lynd said the authority has now opened up the process to competing companies with ideas for a better “economically viable” way to move travelers from the airport to the city center.
“First, give us an idea,” he said. “Then give us the hard facts and data behind it. “
The deadline for submitting proposals is December 1.
The Alamo RMA is an independent political authority established in 2003 to finance or acquire, design and operate transportation projects, including the construction of major highways and toll roads. Bexar County commissioners appoint six members of its board of directors and Governor Greg Abbott appoints the chair.
On its website, the RMA says its mission is “to respond to our congestion and mobility issues through local means with local leadership.”
Its motto: “Move people faster”.
It remains to be seen how the tunnel loop would advance this goal.
The drive from the airport to downtown Henry B. González Convention Center is 9.6 miles, or about 15 minutes by car, mostly on US 281. In other words, it’s an easy commute. .
But Boring Co.’s proposal does not seek to solve a transit problem, said Bexar County engineer Renee Green, who is director of engineering and operations for Alamo RMA.
The company targets business travelers disembarking to San Antonio International who have business rooms and / or downtown hotels – visitors who want to avoid the hassle of renting a car.
“These are people who carpool,” she said.
Green also declined to identify the company behind the original downtown airport proposal. The company, she added, estimated that around 10 percent of all travelers arriving at the airport head to the city center.
There are a lot of unknowns. How much would private company Boring Co. charge runners? How much revenue would the business expect to generate each year? And how much would the underground tunnel set taxpayers back?
Alamo RMA’s “Request for Qualifications and Proposals” asks companies to describe “the maximum expected capacity of vehicles, passengers or facility users per direction and per hour” and to explain their “intended approach. in the acquisition of right-of-way and the relocation of public services. “
Such a project would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The city of San Antonio owns and operates San Antonio International. But city officials did not like The Boring Co.’s plan, which was first reported by Express-News in August.
City Manager Erik Walsh, Deputy City Manager Rod Sanchez and Director of Transportation Tomika Monterville “all had conversations at various times with The Boring Co. over the summer,” the city spokeswoman said. , Laura Mayes. “Looking at the prices and some unanswered questions, this is just not a viable option for the city at this time.”
The Boring Co. currently operates an underground transportation loop in Las Vegas. He built two tunnels that connect the four exhibition halls that make up the 3.2 million square foot, 200 acre campus of the Las Vegas Convention Center. End to end, the journey takes less than two minutes.
The loop was opened to the public in June.
The Las Vegas Loop, which includes three stations and 1.7 miles of tunnels, cost taxpayers $ 52.5 million, which equates to nearly $ 31 million per mile. It has the capacity to move over 4,000 people per hour.
THE CHEKING PROCESS
After the December 1 deadline for proposals, the Alamo RMA will interview up to four shortlisted companies “to further define their concepts and proposals,” according to its official call for projects. RMA will then choose a finalist and begin negotiating a development agreement.
Or it could end the effort.
The authority said it “plans to sell income bonds to pay for project costs, but may need additional funding to cover any difference between the proceeds from the bonds and the funds needed.”
More than half of RMA revenue comes from vehicle registration fees. In its fiscal year 2020, these fees represented $ 15.7 million of the agency’s $ 29 million in revenue.
Grants and contributions – most, if not all, from government agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation – brought in an additional $ 11.6 million.
Toll roads would be a source of revenue for the agency, but there aren’t any in San Antonio – and there likely won’t be anytime soon.
“We don’t have viable toll projects,” Lynd said. “Not having that limited what the RMA was able to accomplish.”
To generate new income, the authority invited entrepreneurs in 2019 to present transport projects on which the RMA could partner. The objective, according to the official request, was to “a) develop new delivery methods for transport projects and / or b) develop new sources of revenue or identify revenue sharing arrangements that would provide RMA with ‘Alamo increased capacity to carry out additional transport projects.
The solicitation remains open and posted on the RMA website.
This is what The Boring Co. was reacting to when they submitted their transport loop plan.
“The roads are very expensive and they eat away at funding quite quickly – and San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the country,” Lynd said. “My goal, and that of the Board of Directors (RMA), is to solve this problem by any means possible.”
The Boring Co. did not respond to a request for comment.
© 2021 the San Antonio Express-News, distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.