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File photo by Roger Gregory/Flickr

City Leader Wants to Clear the Way for Elon Musk's Tunnel

Elon Musk has made a big deal out of his planned freeway tunnel beneath the 405, but so far his people have dug only a pedestrian route under Crenshaw Boulevard and done a bit of test tunneling. The city of Hawthorne has approved 950 feet of tunneling, a far cry from Musk's Boring Company plans for two miles worth of preliminary work.

But that hasn't stopped the Boring Company for applying for a permit to tunnel beneath the city of Los Angeles en route to the Bel-Air tech billionaire's dreams of getting vehicles from the South Bay to the Sepulveda Pass at 150 miles per hour. Westside City Councilman Mike Bonin also is preparing for this possible future.

The home of hot rodding, Carroll Shelby, nearly every major carmaker's design studio, and the Fast and the Furious phenomenon of import tuning could be left in the dust if leaders don't get ready for a future that doesn't involve traditional freeways. There's hope. Tesla founder Elon Musk is a local, and his tunnel vision is based here. Uber recently announced a partnership with NASA to introduce flying ride-hail cars in Los Angeles — possibly by 2020. And now City Hall is on board with transportation that doesn't necessarily involve a gas motor.

Bonin wants L.A. to be prepared for whatever direction high-tech transport takes us — below ground, in the air with flying cars, or just on earth with autonomous vehicles. He recently submitted a proposal that would have representatives of the Boring Company and Uber present their high-tech visions of future L.A. transportation to City Hall. He then would have the Department of Transportation and the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst prepare a report about how local lawmakers can facilitate their needs.

"We want to embrace the new potential for mobility and traffic relief in Los Angeles," Bonin says. "There are some really exciting ideas out there, and we shouldn't be behind the curve on them."

Los Angeles has long prided itself as the car culture capital of the nation (if you don't believe that, take a trip to the L.A. Auto Show starting Dec. 1), but folks like Bonin are concerned that the future of four-wheeled transport could pass us by if we don't jump on the technology bandwagon.

The hottest electric cars in the world, Teslas, are being manufactured in the Bay Area. Self-driving cars developed by Tesla, Google, General Motors and other companies are mostly being tested in San Francisco. And flying cars are being developed in Boston with the help of Chinese investment.

Bonin wants to get out in front again by facilitating Musk's tunnel. Last week the Boring Company requested a permit to excavate below the city, according to the Mayor's Office. "They have begun to talk about the package of permits to go under the public right of way," Bonin says. "We're going to have to have a way to process that."

"So much of the energy and attention to new transportation technology is coming from our area," Bonin says. "Elon Musk is here in Los Angeles, and he wants to do something here. We need to create the framework to be ready for the unknown."

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