It may soon be Boring in Sin City.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is spending $1.4 billion to expand and renovate 200 acres of conference space, and it needs a way to move people more efficiently over roughly 2 miles of its campus. A convention authority committee is recommending that Elon Musk's Boring Company build and operate an underground people mover for the project.
"We've been the top city for trade shows for 24 years in a row. We aim to keep that title," authority CEO Steven Hill told CNBC. "This kind of innovation is an attraction in itself. ... It helps our customers experience everything on our campus."
The authority's board will hear the formal recommendation on Tuesday. If the board approves the proposal, the next step is negotiating design, construction and operational plans for final approval, likely in June. The authority's board also needs approval from Clark County. The authority wants to unveil its people mover when it opens its expanded and renovated facilities at the end of next year.
Las Vegas has other mass transit, including a monorail that travels along much of the Strip. But the company that operates the monorail went into bankruptcy in part because of low ticket sales.
The meeting and convention business is increasingly important for Las Vegas' bottom line. Of the 42 million visitors to the city last year, 6.6 million come for meetings. And they come during the weekdays, driving demand for dining, entertainment and gaming. An efficient, high-speed people mover at the convention center might attract even more visitors. Proposals call for an underground loop that connects the entire Las Vegas Strip, McCarren International Airport, the new Raiders stadium and potentially even a route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
"We hope to explore the opportunity to move this kind of technology into the entire city," Hill said. He added that he has received support from property owners along the strip, Clark County officials and the Regional Transportation Commission. "We've long recognized that as Las Vegas continues to grow, we have some chip points in moving people," he said. "There's not room on the surface really to add lanes on the road every place we need them, particularly up and down the Strip and to the airport. So being underground is something that is very attractive. "
The price is attractive as well. Sources tell CNBC, with a price tag of $35 million to $55 million, Musk's company came in at a fraction of the cost of its above-ground competitors. The company prides itself on significantly reducing the cost of tunneling, which can run as much as $1 billion per mile, by shrinking tunnel diameters and increasing the speed of the tunnel boring machines. The Boring Company spent $10 million to roll out a mile-long test tunnel at its Hawthorne facilities in Los Angeles in December.
It's also working on projects in Los Angeles, Chicago and Maryland. Despite fanfare and optimism that accompanied the announcements in those locations, the projects have been stymied by layers of bureaucracy, opposition from not-in-my-backyard opponents and concerns that mega-tunnels could take on the mega-price tag and mega-annoyance of massive projects like the Big Dig in Boston or the Second Avenue Subway in New York.
The Las Vegas people mover would be Boring's first fully completed commercial project, offering the company an opportunity to demonstrate what it can do beyond the Hawthorne test tunnel. Steve Davis, president of the Boring Company, said it fields three to five inquiries per week from towns, cities and other regions interested in its underground transportation system.
"People will be excited. They will ride it, and if they like it, we'll probably get more interest," he said of the Las Vegas project.
"Nevada looks for a responsible way to say yes," Davis said. "We think it offers a lot of opportunity. I think others see that as well. And we will put in that work to see if it's the right choice for Las Vegas."