City of Austin employees toured a Tesla tunnel in Vegas last week, though it’s not similar to what the city of Austin is planning (Photo via Getty Images)
Director of Austin Developmental Services Denise Lucas authorized 10 of its employees to travel to Las Vegas last week to visit two tunnels built by the Boring Co.the Elon Musk-founded an infrastructure company headquartered in Pflugerville that currently moves people in Teslas under the Las Vegas Convention Center. The stated goal was to learn how to review and license such infrastructure, which DSD may need to do for large-scale Austin projects such as the Project Connect transit system and a new midfield concourse. to Austin-Bergström International Airport.
The site visit included reviewers from all Development Services programs (environment, site plan, drainage, etc.). The tour, as guests of Boring Co. and DSD team counterparts in Las Vegas, was the first such visit, according to a DSD spokesperson. Why send 10 people to see a project that doesn’t compare to anything in Austin’s future (Boring Co. has no experience with transit systems or airports)? The spokesperson said the site visit was routine: “The City of Austin meets with a wide variety of industry experts to compare best practices and lessons learned to benefit the Austin community. “
Staff of Capital Metro and the Austin Transit Partnership, the entity that will actually build Project Connect, first met with Boring Co. officials last year — at the company‘s request — to “provide relevant public information about future construction opportunities,” a spokesperson told us. Since then, “multiple meetings” between Boring Co., ATP, and Cap Metro have involved “high-level conversations” about Project Connect, potential procurement delays, and federal requirements for massive expansion of the transit system in common of Austin.
“Austin is in a unique position, as a metro-less community, to learn from the many transit agencies that have already built and operated these systems, and to ensure that we bring the best practices, knowledge and approach to the program. Project Connect,” the spokesperson said. Again, this would not include the Boring Co. Since 2018, staff members have visited cities that have similar transit infrastructure to what might be built in Austin, such as Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, DC.
Agency staff also met with other engineering and construction companies, at their request, to share publicly available information on Project Connect. Procurement for the construction of the underground parts of the Connect project is not expected to begin for several years. The spokesperson said Cap Metro and ATP “were not aware [of] or involved” in the trip to Vegas, nor in the “more recent conversations” the city has had with the Boring Co. regarding permitting underground infrastructure projects.
As for AUS, prime contractor for the current Airport expansion and development program (see “Can the airport keep up with Austin’s boom?”) is NHT, which has been designing and building infrastructure since 1914, including numerous projects in central Texas; it has several contractors and AUS also seeks specialist support from professional services firms. Because its procurement is ongoing, the city’s aviation department cannot discuss opportunities with other companies who have not responded to solicitations; a spokesman said they “were not aware of any airport meetings with Boring Company officials.”