The Boring Company gets a permit to dig up Washington DC parking lot

Enlarge / A view of the parking lot The Boring Company has permits to dig up (partially obscured by a tree, the parking lot on the left is for McDonald’s). To the right is a mural that local cars editor Jonathan Gitlin hopes will not be destroyed.

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The city of Washington DC has approved a permit that will allow Elon Musk’s Boring Company to dig up a parking lot just north of Capitol Hill and just east of downtown. The lot, at 53 New York Avenue NE, is on a busy street adjacent to a McDonald’s, near the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The Boring Company doesn’t have permits to dig under any streets yet. But according to the LA Times, the city’s Department of Transportation is working to find out what other kinds of permits the company would need to pass under city roads and public spaces.

The permit is an interesting step forward in a project that the Tesla and SpaceX CEO announced vaguely last July. At the time, Musk tweeted that he had “verbal government approval” to build a New York-DC Hyperloop tunnel, although it was unclear who had issued such approval. The Boring Company later commented that it was engaged in discussions with local, state, and federal officials to make the project happen. In October, the company received official approval from the state of Maryland to dig a 10.1-mile tunnel under the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway using a utility permit (which is generally easier for a state to grant). Still, additional permits would be required for any construction beyond that limited scope.

If such a line between NY and DC becomes possible, the parking lot at 53 New York Avenue NE in DC could become a station for what the Boring company calls a “Loop.” Shorter than a Hyperloop, which theoretically achieves speeds over 700mph due to near-vacuum conditions in a sealed tube, a Loop would (also theoretically) bypass the need for a vacuum seal and transport cars of any make or model at 125mph to 150mph on electric skates through The Boring Company’s tunnel system. Electric skates could also house cabins for 8 to 16 people on a predetermined route. The Boring Company responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in Chicago in November, pitching the same idea for a route between O’Hare and Chicago’s downtown area.

The Boring Company has about a year’s worth of experience tunneling under the SpaceX parking lot in Los Angeles, and the company recently applied for permits to dig further. Still, big infrastructure projects are difficult to permit no matter how innovative a project is. But The Boring Company seems to have swayed Washington, DC officials for now. DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser visited The Boring Company site earlier this February, and John Falcicchio, Bowser’s chief of staff, told the LA Times, “We’re just beginning, in the mayor’s office, our conversation to get an understanding of what the general vision is for Hyperloop.”

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