Elon Musk has been touting his Boring Company in Hawthorne as a potential solution to Los Angeles' apocalyptic traffic.
But while the tech press eats up the billionaire Tesla founder's every post about tunneling beneath the 405's congested stretch of freeway from the Sepulveda Pass to the South Bay, the reality of the project appears to have a much more limited scope, at least for now.
Musk's Boring Company, adjacent to his SpaceX property, has been working on a 2-mile research and development tunnel across the street from the facility, according to the firm. A letter to the city from a planning consultant describes the project as “a 2-mile subterranean tunnel extending from the SpaceX property to the intersection of 120th Street and Hawthorne Boulevard.”
“The tunnel will be used to test zero-emissions driven skates transporting personal vehicles, and possibly
pedestrians as well,” according to the document.
Hawthorne mayor Alex Vargas says the city has given the Boring Company permission to tunnel “under Hawthorne Boulevard.” Only 950 feet worth of tunneling has been approved by state officials. In comparison, a mile equals 5,280 feet. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) considers the so-called test tunnel an extension, by 550 feet, of an existing pedestrian tunnel previously approved, according to spokesman Frank Polizzi.
A scheduled inspection by Cal/OSHA turned up a few alleged workplace violations at the Boring Company tunnel at 12300¾ Crenshaw Boulevard, including what the agency described as inadequate hand-washing facilities, hazardous cranes or derricks, inadequate stair rails or handrails, inadequate labeling of potentially hazardous substances, and inadequate posting of an emergency plan, according to Cal/OSHA documents dated last month.
Speaking via email, a media representative for the Boring Company characterized the alleged violations as minor:
“All items were classified as general and non-serious, the least significant of all Cal/OSHA citations. All items, with the exception of one, were fixed the same day, with that one item being fixed the next day. Safety is our top priority. We have a Cal/OSHA certified safety inspector and gas tester on site at all times, and our procedures meet, and typically exceed Cal/OSHA standards and regulations. We are also advancing tunneling technology in order to make it safer, including the automation of most tunneling tasks and the replacement of cranes with elevators.”
On Instagram, Musk posted photos of long tunnels, including one with a Tesla Model S inside. According to reports, Musk has said the tunnel will ultimately run parallel to the 405 freeway from Hawthorne to the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley. “It will work like a fast freeway, where electric skates carrying vehicles and people pods on the main artery travel up to 150 mph, and the skates switch to side tunnels to exit and enter,” he's quoted as saying in an Instagram post.
“It promises to bring us a solution to the traffic nightmares and transportation challenges we have,” Mayor Vargas says. “Building underneath seems to be the way to go.”
So far, however, the Boring Company doesn't really have permission to do that.
“The company would need additional 'underground classifications' from Cal/OSHA to continue tunneling beyond 950 feet,” agency spokesman Polizzi says. “The company would also need to obtain encroachment permits from the city, county or state to tunnel beneath public streets and highways.”
*Updated at 1:15 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15 with a statement from the Boring Company.