weather icon Clear

Digging begins for Las Vegas Convention Center people-mover system

Updated November 15, 2019 - 7:52 pm

With the flip of a switch Friday, Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown may have turned on a new era of transportation technology.

Brown, who serves as chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Steve Davis, president of The Boring Co., powered up a massive drill at the bottom of a 40-foot pit that in 14 months will be a station for a $52.5 million underground people-mover system.

It was somehow appropriate that Brown, who also is chairman of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, got to turn on the machine. Boring and the LVCVA have high hopes that the one-mile system being built beneath and around the Las Vegas Convention Center will lead to a more widespread tunnel network capable of sustaining a subterranean transit system that could remove some traffic from Southern Nevada’s surface streets.

But for now, the focus is on getting the people mover running by January 2021 in time for that month’s CES trade show and allowing that technology crowd to get its first look at it.

“We’re excited for what it will do for guests here,” LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill said. “We’re also excited for what it can do for the destination as a whole.”

At Friday’s tunnel kickoff event, reporters were escorted down several flights of scaffolding to the floor of tunnel but were not permitted to view or photograph the front of the drill, which is expected to chew through 100 feet of dirt and rock a day.

The tunnel-producing boring machine is instrumental in developing the first-of-its-kind system from Elon Musk’s Hawthorne, California-based company. It will include about a mile of twin tunnels around 40 feet underground connected to three stations on the convention center’s 200-acre campus.

Known as the LVCC Loop, the project has been on hold for several weeks as the company and the LVCVA secured building permits from Clark County to tunnel beneath county-maintained streets and to avoid any underground utilities, sewer lines or drainage tunnels.

In addition to burrowing beneath portions of Swenson Street, Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive, the machine will tunnel below the convention center’s Central Exhibition Hall.

Boring officials say people on the ground above the tunneling won’t even be able to perceive the digging occurring below them.

Once operational, the system will include the use of autonomously operated vehicles.

A walk from one end of the system, at the east end of the South Exhibition Hall, to the southwest corner of the new under-construction West Exhibition Hall would take about 15-20 minutes on foot, and there’s no direct route. The people-mover will cut that time to around a minute and a half.

The vehicles will be supplied by one of Musk’s other companies — Tesla — to transport up to 16 passengers at a time. During heavy operational periods, multiple vehicles can be platooned at one time like a train.

Once the system is working, vehicles on Tesla chassis will maneuver through the tunnels at around 35 mph. Hill said vehicles are capable of running at 150 mph, but there’s not enough tunnel in the LVCC Loop system to warrant that kind of speed.

“We got it up to around 126 mph when we rode the one in Hawthorne,” he said. “It was a blast.”

Hill said that because of the automation of the system, passengers, who will ride for free as conventioneers, will have no lengthy wait times to catch a ride.

If and when the system is expanded community-wide, it probably would be operated commercially by Boring, which would charge passengers as in any transit system.

Hill said he expects conventioneers to be excited to try the new technology when they come to Las Vegas for a conference or trade show. He expects the system will attract attention the same way a new roller coaster draws fans to a theme park.

The people-mover is expected to be less expensive to build than conventional subway trains because the total diameter of the parallel tunnels, at 28 feet, are less expensive to produce. The interior diameter of a single tunnel is 12 feet with the outer casing at 13.5 feet. Boring officials say the cost will be three to four times less to build than a conventional transit system.

Davis said he doesn’t anticipate any problems with the potential of caliche deposits or abnormally high water tables.

“You can never say you’re 100 percent positive,” he said. “Nobody ever has perfect knowledge (of the geology).”

But he added that he has worked with seismic challenges in California with the soils there without problems.

Some members of the LVCVA board of directors had some concerns about the system since Boring has not deployed one commercially. The company has built a test tunnel at its Hawthorne headquarters.

The company also has proposals to build similar systems in Los Angeles, Chicago and between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Opening ceremony of the first Chick-fil-A restaurant inside a casino
Opening ceremony of the first Chick-fil-A restaurant inside a casino at the Golden Nugget on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Fire damages 7 cars at Las Vegas airport parking garage - VIDEO
Firefighters on Saturday morning extinguished a car blaze that damaged six other vehicles in a parking garage at McCarran International Airport. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Changes Everything: Grandma - LVCVA ad
"Grandma" is a new television spot from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority prepared to entice visitors to come during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. (Visit Las Vegas/YouTube)
Vegas Changes Everything: Chaos - LVCVA ad
"Chaos" is a new television spot from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority prepared to entice visitors to come during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. (Visit Las Vegas/YouTube)
New allegations involved Steve, Elaine Wynn - VIDEO
The new allegations were presented Friday in a motion that included a 2018 affidavit, alleging former hairstylist Jorgen Nielsen tried to convince a friend to say Steve Wynn raped her and that she bore his son. The affidavit also included new allegations suggesting Elaine Wynn and Nielson orchestrated the assault scandal. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fitness chain Life Time acquires former Sullivan Square site
Fitness chain Life Time has acquired the former Sullivan Square site in Las Vegas for $14 million. The southwest valley property, across the street from Ikea, is little more than a giant hole in the ground. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas in Primm outlet mall changing its name - VIDEO
Chad Dillow, co-owner of Step Right Up, is building his attraction at Prizm Outlets, which recently changed it name from Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, in Primm. It will include 3D trick art, ax throwing, escape rooms and carnival-themed games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
O.J. Simpson files lawsuit against The Cosmopolitan over TMZ story - VIDEO
A lawsuit filed Thursday alleges that The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas defamed O.J. Simpson when hotel employees told TMZ he was kicked out of the casino “for belligerence” in November 2017. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Phil Maloof on selling his Palms Place penthouse.
Phil Maloof sold his 59th-floor penthouse at Palms Place. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bleutech announces Las Vegas land purchase deal
Bleutech Park Properties reached a purchase agreement for 210 acres at Las Vegas Boulevard and Cactus Avenue, project spokesman Tom Letizia announced Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 at a news conference at the M Resort. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stolen Dodge Challenger found, suspect arrested - VIDEO
A $250,000 custom-built Dodge Challenger was stolen on Oct. 30, 2019, just before it was to be displayed at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas this week. The thief was found by an Nevada Highway Patrol trooper, who rammed the trooper's car with the Challenger and got away. The suspect was ultimately arrested and the car recovered. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terbine's, a tech firm, decision to relocate business from Bay Area to Las Vegas
Terbine's, a tech firm, decision to relocate business from Bay Area to Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
A walk through the historic Huntridge Theater in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The Huntridge Theater became a musical venue in 1992 and was a staging ground for groups on the rise and alternative superstars, from Smashing Pumpkins to Sarah McLachlan, the Deftones, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day and Fugazi. The venue has been closed since 2004. This video, taken on Oct. 31, 2019, shows what's left of the theater after 15 years. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International looking to sell another property
MGM Resorts International is working to sell its MGM Grand property on the Las Vegas Strip. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Developer Sam Cherry reveals plans for shareDOWNTOWN.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilwoman Olivia Diaz will attend this event where plans are revealed for a future apartment complex in the Arts District. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Convention Center expansion update - VIDEO
Take a drive outside of the new Las Vegas Convention Center expansion project. (Severiano Galvan/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience - VIDEO
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Day 3 of the 2019 Global Gaming Expo
Day 3 of the 2019 Global Gaming Expo took place at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Southern Nevada could set a new resale-price record in coming months.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes – the bulk of the market – was $310,000 in September. Before the economy crashed last decade, prices peaked in June 2006 at $315,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Walmart container park in Henderson - VIDEO
Henderson could be home to a container park associated with a Walmart Inc. initiative. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World construction update - Video
Resorts World Las Vegas continues its construction on the Las Vegas Strip. Review-Journal studio host Aaron Drawhorn and business reporter Rick Velotta go over the newest updates in the construction. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recession lessons could help Las Vegas face next slump - VIDEO
While the last economic downturn had a dramatic impact on local casinos, most experts expect the industry will be better able to weather the storm during the next recession. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
St. Rose Parkway Construction - Video
St. Rose Parkway continues to have construction along the six-and-a-half mile road. Review-Journal studio host Aaron Drawhorn and business reporter Eli Segall go over the construction projects that are coming to Henderson.
MGM and victims of Oct. 1 reach settlement agreement - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International and lawyers representing potentially thousands of victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have reached a tentative settlement of between $735 million and $800 million. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
iPhone 11 Release
Local Las Vegas long time Apple product consumer shares her excitement for the new iPhone 11 release Downtown Summerlin. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lihi Levin talks about a mobil app Dropit - VIDEO
Lihi Levin, regional manager at Dropit Shopping, talks about a mobil app Dropit. The app lets customers leave their shopping bags at a store then have them delivered the same day to their home or hotel so they can shop without carrying multiple bags all day. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)