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Underground people mover ready to expand to Strip resorts

Updated June 9, 2020 - 2:22 pm

Tourism leaders are forging ahead with Elon Musk’s untested underground people mover and planning to extend into the resort corridor.

Plans call for new connections to Encore and Resorts World Las Vegas on the north end of the Strip, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill revealed at Tuesday’s board meeting.

This would be the first step in long-term plans to link the Strip, McCarran International Airport and Allegiant Stadium.

Hill said the extensions to Encore and Resorts World, which he called the Vegas Loop, would not link to the convention center loop. The convention center loop, being built by Musk’s Boring Co., will shuttle conventiongoers around the facility’s halls.

The Encore tunnel and station could be complete as the convention center expansion and loop come on line in early January, Hill said. The Resorts World tunnel’s completion would be timed to coincide with the $4.3 billion resort’s planned summer of 2021 opening date.

The LVCVA paid $55 million for the construction of the convention center loop. Unlike that project, The Boring Co. would be responsible for the costs associated with building the tunnels and stations to the two resorts. Both resorts could pitch in a small amount toward the project, Hill said. Officials did not give a cost estimate for the two extensions.

Under two minutes

The station at Resorts World would be tied into a subterranean porte cochere and delivery area already planned at the under-construction resort.

“This ramp will start near our north entrance of the west hall of the convention center and proceed along the edge of our property on Elvis Presley and cross under Las Vegas Boulevard and then over to Resorts World,” Hill said.

Scott Sibella, president of Resorts World Las Vegas, said the proposed extension “would provide convention guests and visitors with a rapid and seamless experience between the Las Vegas Convention Center and Resorts World Las Vegas.”

“Convention guests would no longer have to worry about long walks or gridlock traffic around the convention center — they could take the transportation system to Resorts World Las Vegas for lunch, meetings, or personal appointments, and be back to their conference or expo in minutes,” Sibella said in a statement.

The Resorts World tunnel would transport passengers to the convention center in under two minutes, according to the resort.

The route to Encore includes a tunnel alignment running from near the Las Vegas Monorail Station at the convention center, across the Desert Inn and Paradise roads intersection, then underneath a portion of Wynn’s golf course and ending up on the north side of Encore, just east of Las Vegas Boulevard.

The entrance to the monorail at the convention center would be moved to the south to accommodate the station, Hill said.

The tunnel would ramp up to the outside of the porte cochere of Encore, ending the planned sixth-tenths of a mile tunnel, Hill said.

“Cars will be able to come out of that ramp, drive around the porte cochere and then back down into the ramp,” Hill said. “The anticipated capacity is not as high as it is at the convention center; we will be able to do this project with a single tunnel.”

It would take around two minutes to travel between the convention center station and Encore.

Wynn Resorts, in a statement, called the project an important step for the resort company that owns Encore, as it continues investing in eco-friendly options for the meeting and convention space.

Two tunnels dug

Passengers on both the convention and Vegas Loop projects will be transported via Tesla auto chassis in self-driving modes. Maximum capacity for the vehicles will be 16 people.

It will take less than two minutes to move passengers from one end of the convention center to another. At launch, there will be 62 vehicles in use at the convention center.

Both convention center tunnels have been dug. Tunnel one is having ongoing paving and cosmetic repair work while tunnel two is being cleaned and will soon begin to be paved.

Hill said it took about three months to bore the first tunnel and two months to bore the second. Dissatisfied with that time, The Boring Co. has been working on a new boring machine, which can start above ground and is expected to dig out tunnels more quickly and cheaper, Hill said.

“The new boring machine doesn’t require the construction of a pit in order to launch,” Hill said. “This boring machine has the ability to drive like a truck and launch itself. It just tilts, digs its own ramp, creates its own tunnel and comes back out of the ground.”

The Las Vegas Monorail has a noncompete area surrounding its nearly 4-mile route, which runs from the Sahara to the convention center, then to multiple resort properties behind Las Vegas Boulevard, ending at the MGM Grand.

“There are some exceptions to that noncompete and point-to-point systems … are an exception,” Hill said. “We are in conversations with the monorail about how to best preserve the monorail’s operation.”

Hill said the monorail carries 4.8 million people a year. Keeping that capacity along with adding new transportation modes is vital for Las Vegas as the city continues to grow, he said.

“We certainly want to protect its (monorail) ability to provide that service,” Hill said. “I think we all realize we’re going to need a variety of transportation solutions to handle the movement of our guests around Las Vegas. We want to look or opportunities to allow those to happen.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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