UNLV eyes possible Boring tunnel station as boon for Thomas & Mack, Maryland Pkwy

By: - September 13, 2021 6:08 am

The Boring Company’s underground tunnel system at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority)

UNLV is in preliminary talks with The Boring Company to be a part of its ambitious plan for an underground tunnel system, President Keith Whitfield told the Board of Regents Friday.

The Boring Company’s proposed Vegas Loop

The Boring Company’s Vegas Loop proposal calls for 30 miles of underground tunnels creating two 15-mile loops connecting various tourist destinations, primarily along the Las Vegas Strip but also north into Downtown, west to off-Strip properties like the Palms and Allegiant Stadium, and east to McCarran Airport and UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Whitfield described the discussions with Boring as “very preliminary” and assured regents that detailed project plans would have to come before the board for approval. He said wanted the regents to be aware of the possibility early because Boring’s plans will likely garner much media and public attention in upcoming months.

Whitfield provided few specifics but did say the university was looking at something “far less costly” than what Boring has established at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which cost $55 million of public money and involves less than a mile of underground tunnels that connect the three halls of the venue.

When Boring first approached the university in June, Whitfield said, “they were saying a ridiculous number, and I said, ‘Well, that’s not us.'”

A brief attached to the regents’ agenda noted that potential station sites on the UNLV campus are being evaluated. Whitfield in his presentation Friday mentioned that one possibility is near the Tropicana Parking Garage, which is adjacent to the Thomas & Mack Center.

“That gets us very close to Maryland Parkway,” he added.

Developing Maryland Parkway into a social and commercial “University District” for the campus has long been a dream for UNLV. Whitfield said he has also begun preliminary discussions with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada about “changing the vision of what Maryland Parkway looks like” in light of a possible tunnel station.

RTC’s board in 2019 greenlit an estimated $345 million project to develop the Maryland Parkway corridor between Russell Road, near the airport, into Downtown Las Vegas. That plan, which calls for a bus rapid transit system, was chosen over an alternate proposal for a $1 billion light rail system.

Whitfield said it was “nice timing” that these separate projects might overlap and benefit the university.

The ‘Trop 42’ — a 42-acre property owned by the Nevada System of Higher Education — is outlined on the left of this map. (Rendering by UNLV)

A Nevada System of Higher Education-owned lot on Tropicana Avenue just east of Koval Lane is also being considered as a potential future spot for a Boring tunnel station. That 42-acre property is currently vacant and undeveloped.

Dave Frommer, an associate vice president at UNLV, told the regents the university is still determining how best to use that property, which is not contiguous to the existing campus.

Monetizing the property by selling or leasing it, and using that money to further develop the core of the campus, might make more sense than directly developing it, added Frommer.

In the meantime, the Trop 42 site will soon be used by Boring for its Not-A-Boring Competition, where teams will compete to bore a 30-meter tunnel.

On its website, The Boring Co. says its planned Vegas Loop project will “provide fast and convenient transportation to the Las Vegas community, its visitors, and beyond.” It mentions wanting the project to connect “eventually to Los Angeles.”

A chart included with the proposed map station promises 5-minutes of loop travel time between McCarran Airport and the Las Vegas Convention Center — a distance of 4.9 miles. It suggests the fare for that trip would be $10 per vehicle. Meanwhile, a 3.6-mile trip between Allegiant Stadium and the convention center would involve 4 minutes of travel time and cost $6 per vehicle.

While sometimes promoted as a “people-mover,” Boring’s existing transportation system is a tunnel wherein passengers are transported between stations in Tesla vehicles, which are not autonomous and are instead driven by humans. The company plans to eventually use autonomous vehicles. Both Tesla and Boring were founded by billionaire Elon Musk.

The Boring Co. has already received approval from Clark County to expand its existing tunnels to Resorts World and Encore, though no official timeline for that leg of the project has been officially announced yet.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and two mutts.