With tourism board near vote on tunnel transport system, Goodman raises objections

tvs design / Design Las Vegas / The Boring Company via AP

This undated conceptual drawing provided by tvs design/Design Las Vegas and The Boring Company shows the entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop outside a new exhibition hall proposed for Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s board of directors will vote on contract for a new underground transportation system next week, but not all members are on board with the plan.

Authority CEO Steve Hill said a contract has been negotiated with the Boring Co., an Elon Musk firm, to construct a $52.5 million underground transport system that would move people around the Las Vegas Convention Center footprint with autonomous electric vehicles. 

In the event that the Boring Co. does not receive a certificate of occupancy for the tunnel system, Hill said, the authority would receive all of its money back.

Board members Michele Fiore and Carolyn Goodman, the Las Vegas mayor, spoke in support of a competing transit proposal by an Austria-based company called Doppelmayr Garaventa Group. The Boring Co. and Doppelmayr were the two finalists selected after the authority put out a request for proposals last year.

Goodman emailed a letter to her fellow board members on Monday in support of Doppelmayr, which proposed a more traditional above-ground convention center campus transit system.

“Doppelmayr has been in existence for 125 years,” Goodman said. “They already have projects here that are operating successfully. The Boring Co. is 3 years old and has yet to deliver a final package on anything. (The tourism and convention business) is a $60 billion industry that every part of this state relies on for dollars. This is really about deliverability — we can’t fail on this.”

Goodman even invited Doppelmayr CEO Markus Schrentewein, who was on a business trip in California, to give a presentation at Tuesday’s convention authority board meeting.

“During the bidding process, if we would have been given the chance to present and explain in more detail our proposal, I believe we would have come up with a more favorable project for the LVCVA campus,” Schrentewein said.

According to Doppelmayr’s original proposal, which was obtained by the Sun, the firm estimated that it would cost just over $215 million to build its above-ground transit system on the convention center’s footprint. 

In Goodman’s letter to the board, she indicated that Doppelmayr would’ve able to build a system for $85 million. 

Hill said the proposal from the Boring Co. was chosen mainly on a set of three criteria: cost, timing (the underground system could be under construction while the campuses' nearly-$1 billion expansion work is ongoing) and scalability (the possibility to expand the underground system to other areas of Las Vegas).

“It’s significantly less expensive than any of the alternatives that we reviewed,” Hill said. “Frankly, for the funding capacity of the LVCVA, this is the system that we could go forward with. We’re going to bring a contract next week that will eliminate all financial risk from the LVCVA.”

The Boring Co., Hill said, wants the proposed convention center project to be a “showpiece.” Company president Steve Davis said earlier this year that the Las Vegas project would take about a year to complete.

Underground electric vehicles like the ones that would run under the convention center grounds can reach speeds of up to 155 mph, according to the Boring website.

Fiore, also a Las Vegas councilwoman, agreed with Goodman’s skepticism about the Boring Co., which has come under fire by some for its ambitious proposals for transportation systems around the country.

“The risk of the Boring Co. is quite high, while the risk with Doppelmayr is quite low,” Fiore said. “How do we justify not really looking at Doppelmayr as a solid and proven company? I’m not so sure the Boring Co. is the company to do this job.”

The authority board will meet May 22 for a budget hearing. Authority spokeswoman Jackie Dennis said it’s expected that the board will vote on the Boring Co. contract during the meeting.