Community Activists Kill Elon Musk's Plan for an Underground Freeway Tunnel in LA

Elon Musk tried to bypass a full environmental review for his test tunnel, but community groups sued and won.

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Nov 28 2018, 3:41pm

Elon Musk. Image: Daniel Oberhaus/Motherboard

Elon Musk’s tunneling venture, the Boring Company, withdrew its plans for a 17-mile tunnel beneath Los Angeles’ 405 freeway on Tuesday after settling with a coalition of community groups that had sued the city over Musk’s plans. Instead, the company said that it would build a much shorter test tunnel to the Los Angeles Dodgers' baseball stadium.

The planned freeway tunnel, known as the Sepulveda test tunnel, was announced last year by the Boring Company, but construction quickly stalled due to legal troubles. The Boring Company sought to bypass a lengthy environmental review process for the tunnel and managed to get the city on board with a fast track to construction.

This invoked the wrath of a number of community groups in Los Angeles, who sued the city and demanded a full environmental review of Musk’s test tunnel. The pressure from the community groups worked and this week the Boring Company dropped all its plans for the Sepulveda tunnel.

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Musk had touted plans for the Sepulveda tunnel as recently as late October, when he tweeted that the first leg of the tunnel would be open to passengers on December 10. Now that Musk’s dream of avoiding LA traffic is dead, the company will focus on its so-called “Dugout Loop,” which will transport Los Angelenos to and from Dodgers Stadium and other venues in the area. The loop will be populated with modified Tesla vehicles running on “electric skates,” but so far these transport vehicles have only been demonstrated in promotional videos.

As so often happens with Musk, he promised far more than he was able to deliver in the case of the Sepulveda tunnel, but the Boring Company has a number of other projects to focus on in the meantime.


In 2017, Maryland’s State Highway Administration gave Musk permission to build a 12-mile tunnel between Baltimore and Washington, DC, but these plans have encountered some legal issues this year. The Boring Company was also tapped by the Mayor of Chicago earlier this year to build an 18-mile transit tunnel around the city, but many residents are skeptical it will ever come to fruition in a city that is plagued by transit pipe dreams.