- A $2 million WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff study to determine the feasibility of replacing an elevated portion of Interstate 81 with a tunnel through downtown Syracuse, NY, shows four plans costing $3 billion to $4.5 billion and taking up to 10 years to complete, according to Syracuse.com.
- The most expensive option, WRVO reported, would be construction of a 2.6-mile tunnel and require acquisition of 42 parcels of land. The WSP study deemed the most viable option a 1.6-mile tunnel, which would cost $3.6 billion, would necessitate 22 land purchases and take nine years to build.
- New York Department of Transportation officials originally rejected the idea of a tunnel, but commissioned the study on orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The mayor of Syracuse called any tunnel plan "not feasible financially" and "detrimental" to the community, and is advocating for a revamp of the existing street grid, which would cost $1.3 billion.
According to a recent report from Tunnel Business Magazine, more cities are looking to underground transportation options as their above-ground space fills with new development. Advances in tunnel-boring technology have made the prospect of subterranean construction less daunting and more cost-effective. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reported that it took $1 million a foot to manually dig a 120-foot tunnel, but cost only $19,000 a foot to dig a three-mile tunnel with a tunnel boring machine (TBM).
Tesla and Space-X founder Elon Musk has jumped into the business with his new enterprise, The Boring Company. Musk said his boring technology, according to Business Insider, could reduce tunneling time and cost by digging and installing wall reinforcements at the same time rather than tunneling and then stopping to go back and add those reinforcements.
Musk, who has been testing his tunneling tech near his Space-X headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, already is involved in the preliminaries for at least three underground transportation projects. In July, he said he had received verbal approval from the government to build a hyperloop tunnel that would connect Washington, DC, and New York City. In addition, the Maryland Department of Transportation said it has given The Boring Company conditional approval to dig a hyperloop tunnel between Baltimore Washington, DC.
Most recently, Musk said The Boring Company would bid on an express transit system from downtown Chicago to O'Hare International Airport, although there are few details yet about what that project would look like.
Despite inroads, TBM runs into trouble once in a while. The machine, dubbed Bertha, that crews used to dig a 1.75-mile Highway 99 tunnel underneath a portion of Seattle broke down in December 2013, and it took technicians two years to complete repairs. The cause of Bertha's failure is still being litigated, but the breakdown and some other subsequent issues pushed the tunnel's completion date back almost 29 months to this past April.