Tesla and SpaceX supremo, Elon Musk, caused some confusion with a Thursday tweet about receiving verbal approval from government authorities to build an underground Hyperloop system connecting Washington DC to New York, with two stoppages at Baltimore and Philadelphia, respectively.
The tweet claimed that the DC-NYC distance would be covered in a mere 29 minutes. Needless to say, Elon Musk’s side project, “The Boring Company,” would be undertaking the ambitious project – provided all goes well with the mandatory authorizations.
Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017
However, the representatives of the four cities concerned informed “Fortune” that no such approval had been given. In fact, there wasn’t even a proper meeting or discussion on the subject.
“Elon Musk has had no contact with Philadelphia officials on this matter. We do not know what he means when he says he received ‘verbal government approval’,” Mike Dunn, deputy communications director at the City of Philadelphia, said to “Fortune,” while Anthony McCarthy, director of communications for the Baltimore mayor’s office informed “Fortune” that the city of Baltimore had not given any approval for the project to Musk or “The Boring Company.”
“Right now, I would characterize any conversations as preliminary and not extensive,” McCarthy said.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has supported .the concept – “I am excited to hear about Elon Musk’s underground Hyperloop connecting New York to Washington, DC through Baltimore,” she said in a statement. “If his plan becomes a reality it has tremendous potential to create new opportunities for Baltimore and transform the way we link to neighboring cities.”
Meanwhile, Eric Phillips, the New York City Press Secretary, said in a tweeted statement: “This is news to City Hall,” following it up later with: “The entirety of what we know about this proposal is what’s in Mr. Musk’s Tweet. That is not how we evaluate projects of any scale.”
The White House said in a statement to the “New York Times” “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.”
While the White House statement may not have been very forthcoming about the project or its specifics, it certainly points towards the source of Musk’s so-called “verbal approval.”
When pressed for clarification on the Thursday announcement, Musk backpedaled a bit with a follow-up tweet: “Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly.”
Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017
In another tweet, later, Musk urged the people to take the matter up with their local authorities.
“If you want this to happen fast, please let your local & federal elected representatives know. Makes a big difference if they hear from you,” read the tweet.
Fortune claims to have been informed by a Boring Company spokesperson that the project has the nod from “key government decision-makers” without providing details.
Having got held up in a traffic snarl one day in December last year, Musk took to Twitter to vent his frustration – “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…”
At first, it seemed nothing more than the ranting of a man frustrated with the traffic but several subsequent tweets on the subject confirmed, to some extent, the billionaire’s seriousness about his plans of building a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) to solve traffic woes.
Musk founded “The Boring Company” with the purpose of building an underground network of tunnels beneath cities, starting with Los Angeles, to counter surface traffic congestions.
However, in the current proposal to link the four cities in the Northeast corridor, the tunnels will house the Hyperloop, a technology that, basically, uses levitated pods to go through a low-pressure tube powered by a “custom electric motor.” This mode of transporting people and vehicles can be done at airline speeds.
Back in 2013, Musk had said it would take 7-10 years and cost under $6 billion to build a Hyperloop between LA and San Francisco, a distance of about 400 miles.
According to White House officials, Musk had touched upon the Boring Company idea in a meeting with President Donald Trump in March this year, in addition to bringing up his Mars mission plans.
In April, Musk’s idea of using tunnels to address traffic congestion in LA and for intercity connectivity was lauded by White House National Economic Council Director Gary John.