boring tunnel
boring tunnel

A new environmental impact draft report from the U.S. and Maryland Departments of Transportation outline Elon Musk’s proposal to dig two 35-mile tunnels between Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Originally Musk’s proposal would have seen passengers being able to get from New York City to D.C. in just 29 minutes. Which seems incredible given the fact that the actual distance is 227 miles between the two cities. But now, the proposal will be to go from DC to Baltimore in 15 minutes. That is if all goes well. And by that I mean, this is a lofty endeavor. In order to achieve this kind of time, the Hyperloop will have to go 150 miles per hour. Which hasn’t been achieved yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I love when people step up to a challenge like this one, and are able to do great things. It would be incredible to see this kind of transportation – especially for short distance travel, which can take a significant amount of time. The challenge is related to finances. The Boring Company will need to dig these tunnels in a very fast way, which is also dependent on the company’s “technical progress prior to the start of implementation”. Meaning, they have to figure out the mechanics and the technology before they can even start digging. So have they put the cart before the horse in this case?

Think about it for a moment. The entire route between D.C. and Baltimore is 35 miles long. And The Boring Company wouldn’t just be digging one tunnel. They would have to dig two in order to accommodate round trips. The environmental impact report claims a digging time of fewer than two years would be unprecedented and something that might be difficult to achieve. The Boring Company believes they can dig this tunnel in a minimum of 12 months.

To put this into perspective, a 35-mile tunnel through the Swiss Alps took 17 years to build. Sure, digging in the Alps is much more difficult than the soil in Maryland, but I would suggest that it could take half of the time or even a third. Which means it could take anywhere between four and eight years. In that instance, we should point out that it takes the high-speed trains 17 minutes to travel through the tunnel. All this means is that this is entirely possible, but I would question Musk’s expectations to see this tunnel come to fruition.

Some reporters are suggesting that this project is silly. And on the outset maybe it is. But the truth is, I think it shows courage to be able to put an idea out there, that might not turn out the way that Musk had hoped or even planned. Is it a bad thing to be open and vulnerable that way? Also, for the last couple of years, people have been saying that Elon Musk is crazy, but I would argue that he’s the only one coming up with new and innovative ideas. I will admit, when I read them, I feel like they are a bit grand, but once I let it sink in, I realize that my thinking is likely too small. Not the other way around.

Maybe there are other ways of achieving what Musk is setting out to achieve. But if the authorities in Maryland and D.C. are on board with his plan, why shouldn’t we be also?