City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez returned a believer from a Las Vegas tour of Elon Musk’s Boring Company.
Suarez’s pitch now to commissioners and the community at large expanded from a small tunnel under Brickell Avenue to an entire tunnel system running north-south through the city. Under the pitch, pedestrians would walk underground and get into vehicles to travel beneath city streets.
Suarez told NBC 6 that to save local taxpayers' money, he’d support mimicking the Las Vegas project, where the company privately finances the construction and charges riders fees to use.
“Everything that you see indicates that our growth is going to continue," Suarez said. "One of the biggest concerns people share with me is infrastructure, what are we doing to make sure infrastructure keeps pace with this growth."
The Mayor’s pitch would have the system go from Brickell north through Downtown, Midtown, Edgewater, Wynwood and Little Haiti. Suarez says the company estimates the price would be around $10 million per mile. A straight drive from the Brickell City Center to Little Haiti is roughly six miles.
The proposal’s cost would increase with the number of stations as the city would have to work through right of way issues.
NBC 6 request for comment from Musk’s Boring Company has not yet been returned.
Suarez was joined by City Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla in Las Vegas, who posted on Twitter, “Elon Musk and his team made a magnificent job with this project.”
“It’s sort of like a monorail system but it’s underground," Suarez said. "In the sense that instead of it being a monorail, you have a four-passenger, five-passenger car, which is basically a Tesla."
Miami leaders are not the first to pursue a tunnel proposal from Musk’s company.
After former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported bringing a tunnel project to the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration dismissed the plan.
Similar projects in Los Angeles and under the Las Vegas convention center were approved by city leaders. The one in Las Vegas, similar to an underground people mover, is in operation this year.
Suarez wants Miami to be the next city. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis is also working towards a Boring tunnel in Broward County as well.
“This is the future of Fort Lauderdale. This is the future of transportation," Trantalis said. "And this is the future of what we can all come to expect in South Florida."
But could the project work in the Magic City? South Florida is not exactly known for finishing construction projects cheap or on time.
For some, the $10 million per mile figure could make some local onlookers skeptical. Many in South Florida still have a bad taste after the county’s half-penny sale tax from around two decades ago, with critics saying the plan over promised, under delivered, or misused resources.
The Port of Miami tunnel proved a tunnel is possible but the total price tag came in more than $1 billion.
The new bus rapid transit system for Miami-Dade County’s south corridor comes in at close to $250 million, roughly the same amount of money per mile as the tunnel pitch.
“The boring machine itself is significantly less expensive, for obvious reasons because of the size,” Suarez said.
Besides the user-fee model, Suarez aims to have a “maximum price guarantee” if needed.
“So you knew how much it was going to cost. So if they went over, they took the loss on it,” Suarez said.
In Miami's “weak mayor” form of government, the sign-off of this plan would eventually have to come from the city’s five-person commission.
Commissioners Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes told NBC 6 they did not have an official position on the pitch but have a long list of questions about how realistic it is. Commissioner Ken Russel supports a tunnel proposal and backed an earlier version in 2018. Commissioner Jeffrey Watson says he won’t dismiss any proposal until he sees details on paper.
The “North-South” project would also have to be approved by Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s administration and the county commission.