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Technology

The red tape that could slow down Musk's tunnel plans

It wasn’t long after Elon Musk tweeted he had “verbal government approval” to build an underground Hyperloop from New York City to Washington, D.C. that questions started swirling.

Who signed off on the plan?

Where will the tunnels be located?

Who will pay for it?

Just as important is the question of how much will it cost.

Within an hour of sending his first Hyperloop tweet, Musk followed up with a few more details. He tweeted, “Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly.”

That last point about quickly building the Hyperloop is one civil engineers, developers and government leaders may scoff at due to the red tape that goes along with almost every infrastructure project.

“From a physical engineering standpoint it is a concept that I believe is doable,” said Malcolm Dougherty with the California Department of Transportation. “But the complications get into where do you put it and what right-of-way rights do you have to be able to build it.”

In other words, the devil is in the details. CNBC asked Musk’s Boring Company to clarify which government agency or agencies have told Musk they approve of his Hyperloop plan, but have not yet received a response.

At some point, papers will have to be filed, government agencies will likely hold public reviews and the long process of building one or more tunnels spanning more than 200 miles will begin.

Musk says he’s also exploring building Hyperloops between Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as in Texas.

Regardless of the location, the same critical question will confront Musk and his team: Do they plan to burrow under public or private property?

“If he is going to do it underground, you still have to acquire right of way and property rights to be able to go under there,” Dougherty said. “There are a lot of things underground in Los Angeles like building foundations, sewer lines and utilities.”

In the meantime, the mayoral offices of at least two cities that are expected to house Hyperloop stations said they have not been involved in any talks with Musk or the Boring Company.

Philadelphia city government spokesman Mike Dunn told CNBC in an email that Musk has had no contact with Philadelphia officials.

“We do not know what he means when he says he received ‘government approval’,” Dunn said. “There are numerous hurdles for this unproven Hyperloop technology before it can become reality.”

In similar fashion, the press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio tweeted that this was the first he had heard of the project and that he had no clue what “verbal approval” meant.

Eric Phillips

The White House said it has talked to Musk, but gave no indication of when the talks took place or whether any kind of approval was granted.

“We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector,” said a statement from a White House spokesman.

Source: Tech CNBC
The red tape that could slow down Musk's tunnel plans

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