Elon Musk's Pointless, Subsidized Tunnels Head To Flood-Prone Florida

from the Tony-Stark-you-ain't dept

If you hadn't noticed by now -- and if you're part of his rabid fanbase you haven't -- there's often a bit of a chasm between what Elon Musk promises and what usually gets delivered. For every notable innovation his companies deliver, there always seem to be a handful of other side products that promise the moon and deliver something more akin to a Styrofoam ball slathered in grey paint.

One of the best recent examples has been Musk's promises in terms of revolutionizing mass transit. Via his Boring company, Musk has routinely hoovered up taxpayer subsidies in exchange for projects he claims will revolutionize public transportation, but wind up doing nothing of the sort. In Las Vegas, for example, Musk's company managed to nab the $52 million contract to deliver an innovative new public transit option. Instead he delivered what was little more than some Teslas driving slowly through a narrow neon-lighted fire death trap tunnel.

Because portraying Musk as a real life super-genius Tony Stark is fun and drives ad eyeballs, the press tends to lend more credulity to these proceedings than is usually warranted, something made abundantly clear in the wake of the Las Vegas "hyperloop" launch. An inefficiently slow, one-way neon tunnel filled with non-automated Tesla taxis was somehow reported by major media outlets as if we'd cured cancer:

This being America, where we're not keen on this whole "learning from experience thing," Musk's Boring company is now bidding on a similar contract in Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- a region facing looming flooding and infrastructure catastrophes in the face of accelerating climate change:

"Like all of South Florida, Fort Lauderdale faces an extreme threat from sea level rise. The ocean there has risen by up to eight inches (20.3 centimeters) since 1950. Most Fort Lauderdale residents live less than five feet (1.5 meters) above sea level, including a majority in areas deemed Special Flood Hazard Areas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Things could get much worse, though. A conservative estimate forecasts up to two feet (0.6 meters) of sea level rise could hit Fort Lauderdale by mid-century, which would vastly increase the risk of flooding."

Please note how mainstream outlets busy discussing this latest bid simply can't be bothered to note the underwhelming, wasteful nature of the Las Vegas project, or the stupidity in digging a bunch of new tunnels in a coastal area about to be pummeled by repeated flooding. What Florida, like much of the US, needs is infrastructure programs that can withstand the test of extreme climate. And mass transit options that genuinely deliver inexpensive and efficient transportation alternatives with an eye on reducing overall traffic. What Florida, like Vegas, is probably getting is... not that:

"Part of proactive climate action is ensuring that every single new infrastructure project accounts for climate risk, and hazard risk more generally,” said [Samantha Montano, an assistant professor in emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy]. “Building this kind of underground infrastructure in a community that is already facing persistent flooding seems like a poor use of resources."

But we're going to do it anyway. And when it delivers a tiny fraction of the innovation that Musk originally promised, then stops working entirely due to intense coastal flooding from climate change, we're going to... pretend that never happened and simply roll right on to the next expensive, bad idea.

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Filed Under: elon musk, florida, las vegas, tunnels, underground roads
Companies: boring company


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  • identicon
    Bobvious, 8 Jul 2021 @ 3:00pm

    Soil dynamics is your enemy

    What was that saying about building your house on sand? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_liquefaction

    And a US poet's take on things, https://www.poetrysoup.com/poem/building_a_house_on_sand__346029

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2021 @ 7:42pm

      Re: Soil dynamics is your enemy

      Elton Camp may be a US poet, but he's still trying to sell a viewpoint. That is, "your building on a beach causes my insurance rates to climb".

      But the portion of a state that takes damage from hurricanes? All of it. And for those on the beach? Well, they're paying for Hurricane and Flood insurance on top of their home premiums, now aren't they?

      Your point about soil liquefaction applies more to earthquake zones than beaches. "Building on sand" still stands as a good point, though. Google "Millenium Tower".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bobvious, 8 Jul 2021 @ 8:47pm

        Re: Re: Soil dynamics is your enemy

        "soil liquefaction applies more to earthquake zones than beaches."

        Generally speaking, but here the building substrate is susceptible to any source of vibration or change in moisture levels. That nearby building work might have affected both. Eventually a forensic analysis of the Florida collapse will occur and we'll have a better idea.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Tanner Andrews (profile), 14 Jul 2021 @ 12:50am

        Re: Re: Soil dynamics is your enemy

        "your building on a beach causes my insurance rates to climb"

        In fairness, it does not cause the insurance rates to rise as much as they should. Two problems prevent this natural market operation.

        First, subsidized flood insurance. Almost everyone who buys needs a mortgage loan, and the bank requires flood insurance when you are in a low area such as a beach. Flood insurance would be fabulously expensive in such areas, except for the federal subsidy which makes it much cheaper than would be actuarily sound.

        Second, state supported ``catastrophe'' reinsurance, meaning that the risk of great damage is shifted to the taxpayers rather than the near-ocean property owners who present the greatest risk of suffering casualty. Here, some but not all of the state support is loaded onto regular insurance policies in safer areas.

        Together, these operate as a sort of Reverse Robin Hood. The more impecunious taxpayers provide the support so that the better-off may own waterfront properties. Be assured that oceanfront property owners are generous at campaign contribution time.

        In a sane market, it would be essentially impossible to obtain affordable insurance within a mile of the ocean. Underwriters would flee from such opportunities.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Lostinlodos (profile), 14 Jul 2021 @ 1:23am

          Re: Re: Re: Soil dynamics is your enemy

          “ Reverse Robin Hood.”
          One minor note: being a member of a large family that has some in Florida. And other Pacific and gulf states.
          Beach front property isn’t as expensive or elite as the general public believes.

          Outside of hot spots prices tend to be fairly low. Being on the state or local maintained beach will always cost: 75k+ for a half acre.

          But there’s lots of less costly options.
          You can get 2-4 acres at under 50k in northern south Florida for under $50k! If you don’t mind your ocean front being swamp.
          Even less slightly off the ocean.
          Not everyone has a beachfront McMansion.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Boba Fat (profile), 8 Jul 2021 @ 3:08pm

    A tunnel in what? Water?

    Ft. Lauderdale is only 9 feet above (today's) sea level, and the ground is mostly limestone, coral, and mud. Building a tunnel would be more like holding a giant pool noodle under the sea.

    On the plus side, it should be easy to dig.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2021 @ 4:15pm

      Re: A tunnel in what? Water?

      Yes, putting a tunnel under Ft Lauderdale is beyond sill. Why, it's almost as stupid as putting a train tunnel under the English Channel. Both are totally impractical.

      Oh wait...

      Sorry, but the fact is Today tunnels are often put under rivers through soft rock and mud. That's not to say that this particular tunnel system makes any sense. The whole city will probably be underwater before the investment is recouped. Of course, this being Florida, it's not politically correct to mention that...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bobvious, 8 Jul 2021 @ 4:35pm

        Re: Re: A tunnel in what? Water?

        However the Chunnel "At its lowest point, (it) is 75 m (250 ft) deep below the sea bed and 115 m (380 ft) below sea level" - Wikipedia

        I can't imagine that anything in Florida is going for that scale of depths, YET! But given time, the ocean may rise to the challenge.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 8 Jul 2021 @ 5:57pm

        Re: Re: A tunnel in what? Water?

        My friend's father had contracts to build lots of tunnels, all his sons worked in the caissons under NY rivers. Jerry's brother died, but the Greenwood tunnels kept getting delivered; the world is full of such losers. Better to stay home on your computer and hide your failures.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2021 @ 6:38pm

      Re: A tunnel in what? Water?

      Building a tunnel would be more like holding a giant pool noodle under the sea.

      That's a real thing, called an immersed tube. The Transbay Tube is an example.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2021 @ 3:17pm

    The need to invest money in order to prevent future flooding
    And also stop building apartments on land that will be under water in 5 to 10 years due to climate change rising sea levels
    The last thing Florida needs is underground tunnels

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2021 @ 4:23pm

    Well, i mean, it's Florida.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    R2_v2.0 (profile), 8 Jul 2021 @ 4:39pm

    You'll be proved wrong...

    Naysayers said the same about Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook but monorail put them on the map.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Beefcake (profile), 8 Jul 2021 @ 4:56pm

      Re: You'll be proved wrong...

      Hey now. That’s America’s wang we’re talking about here. Be respectful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        OGquaker, 8 Jul 2021 @ 6:41pm

        Elon's just a big a hole, draining our lives

        The Los Angeles Regional Connector light-rail tunnel, in shallow alluvial soil and 3.8 million man-hours since 2014. That hole might be opened in 2022. Musk's $52,000,000 Gov-mont Sub-sy-die would buy 172 feet of the NEW Los Angeles Regional Connector..... an average man's long baseball throw. To quote Ronald Reagan: It's a walk

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jul 2021 @ 6:41pm

    The gift of prophecy only becomes a curse when people don't notice or listen...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 8 Jul 2021 @ 10:36pm

    Let him build it with his own money

    If Mr. Musk wants to build Florida tunnels with his own, or investor's money - by all means, cheer him on. Maybe he can deliver another miracle (don't discount a guy who can land two 50 meter tall rockets simultaneously when NASA has never landed even one). I can't embed phtoos here but https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacex/2019/06/25/side-boosters-have-landed/

    Taxpayer money, no.

    Yes, Musk has a habit of picking up large sums of money the government leaves on the ground. But he's just picking them up - it's our elected officials who drop it there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bloof (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 1:39am

      Re: Let him build it with his own money

      And people like Musk didn't in any way lobby to get tax breaks and subsidies, he didn't spend a single penny on politicians to get payouts from the government, nope! He just walked along and found free money and special treatment waiting for him for being the one honest person in business.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        OldMugwump (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re: Let him build it with his own money

        "people like Musk" <> "Musk".

        But perhaps you already knew that. If so, I apologize.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          XcOM987 (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 8:23am

          Re: Re: Re: Let him build it with his own money

          If Mr. Musk wants to build Florida tunnels with his own, or investor's money - by all means, cheer him on. Maybe he can deliver another miracle (don't discount a guy who can land two 50 meter tall rockets simultaneously when NASA has never landed even one).

          You mean like the DC-X in 1996 which was developed in conjunction with the US Governement and then passed on to NASA who continued development and completed a test flight and landing in 1996:
          Image of first landing in 1996
          [Video of first landing[(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv9n9Casp1o)

          The idea isn't anything new, like 99% of what Musk comes out with.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Lostinlodos (profile), 13 Jul 2021 @ 12:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Let him build it with his own money

            Though he was inaccurate he does have a point. Two actually.
            First, the government never did come up with a reliable method for what he’s now doing rocket wise.

            Second, if it’s not tax payer money…? Have at it. If it works, kool, if not,
            Kool!

            Personally, I’d be far quicker to support off ground, deep-dug-support, high speed elevated electro-magnetic monorail down 3 state corridors.

            Seems like a far more effective project.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            OGquaker, 15 Jul 2021 @ 3:27pm

            Capital (ism) at it's Apogee

            DC-X was bought by Boeing, re-named (as Boeing does with everything Boeing takes from others with mostly tax-$$) and tossed into the ashcan. To much $$profit for stockholders (and CEO's with stock "buy-backs") dumping every $200million 1950's US military designed booster into the ocean: "Delta"=Douglas. The CEO of Coca-Cola mentioned on PBS that 70% of all American's "hydration" (liquid drink) is out of a SINGLE USE CONTAINER, a 320 million-tons-a-year Great Pacific Garbage Patch, all manufactured from mined petroleum.... Capital (ism) at it's Apogee.

            P.S. Single-stage into Earth orbit (DC-X) is useless, see Bezo's Salvage-1 rocket. Stop the BS.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jul 2021 @ 6:03am

    Every project he's running has an obvious application when put in the context of "He's planning to do this on Mars". Boring tunnels, tesla batteries, tesla solar technology, spacex rockets. everything he's doing is extremely aligned to enabling life on mars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 11:13am

    Don't worry, Ben Shapiro said you could always simply sell your beach properties.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    UriGagarin (profile), 9 Jul 2021 @ 3:57pm

    isn't it Ocean's 13 with more coke?

    I mean a lot more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lostinlodos (profile), 10 Jul 2021 @ 8:56am

    Not stark, but close

    I think the comparison actually formats. For those who are fans of the entirety of the series (not just the movies or TV), Mr Stark failed far more often than he successfully completed anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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