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Ziv

Can the Boring Company improve the NEC?

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Musk announced recently that the Boring Company had reduced the price of tunneling from $1Bn a mile to $10Mn for a 1.14 mile section of tunnel. It is kind of apples to oranges since the tunnels he was comparing to were larger (28'?) than the 14' bore that Godot produces, which when finished yields an interior that is 12' wide and tall.  If the Boring Company can build a moderately larger boring machine capable of boring a tunnel large enough for the NEC Regionals and the Avelia Libertys while still keeping the price down to around $50Mn a mile, Amtrak might be able afford to straighten out the 4 or 5 (or more) slowest points on the NEC without exceeding current expenditures by a ruinous amount. I don't know how much tunnel would be needed at Frankford Junction or Elizabeth NJ to straighten out the line enough to allow a faster allowed speed. But if you could take a 2 mile section of moderately tight curves on the surface and turn it into a 1.5 mile section of very gentle curves inside the tunnel with a much higher speed limit, it would seem to be worth doing if it only cost $75Mn and wouldn't interfere with regular operations while the boring was being done.

How big of a bore would they need to have as a finished product to leave enough room for tracks, trains and catenary? 17'? 19'?

I apologize for the "what if?" nature of the question, just wondering how much time would be saved. I think the amount of time saved would vary greatly, but it seems like it could save you 2 to 4 minutes per slow down area. I think I read that straightening the curves was on the 2010 Amtrak list of Capital Improvements, but it seems like tunneling using Boring Company technology may be able to be done cheaper (in the near future) than straightening the curves on the surface.

 

 

" Musk put the total price tag for the finished segment at about $10 million, including the cost of excavation, internal infrastructure, lighting, ventilation, safety systems, communications and a track. By comparison, he said, digging a mile of tunnel by "traditional" engineering methods costs up to $1 billion and takes three to six months to complete. "

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This tunneling for a high speed ROW is probably going to happen eventually, but I'm pretty sure I won't live long enough to see it happen....

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The problem of bring tunnels in NJ is not the technology of doing so but the politics of being able to do so, i.e. permitting and cost of acquiring properties necessary.

I agree, it will not happen in my lifetime. Maybe when they have to move the entire thing because of ocean level rise or something like that.

And anything that Musk says about these things should be taken with a significant dollop of salt IMHO too. :unsure:

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I hope Railiner and Jis are wrong about the time-frame of any tunneling, but given their accuracy in the past I would guess my wishful thinking is probably not being realistic. And I am chuckling about keelhauled's link. Hadn't seen that law before but it does tend to sum up the "uncertainty" associated with headlines with question marks.

I will continue to hope that the Boring Company can deliver on faster, cheaper tunnels, but I won't hold my breath. But the guy has delivered some home runs in the past, too. Here is hoping he can deliver another one and that it can be used to speed up the NEC.

It would also make the expansion of subway systems much more affordable...

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How has Elon Musk managed to magically reduce the costs of tunnels? Sorry, but I believe he is a snake oil salesman (even though I love the electric car). 

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6 hours ago, Ziv said:

. I don't know how much tunnel would be needed at Frankford Junction or Elizabeth NJ to straighten out the line enough to allow a faster allowed speed. But if you could take a 2 mile section of moderately tight curves on the surface and turn it into a 1.5 mile section of very gentle curves inside the tunnel with a much higher speed limit, it would seem to be worth doing if it only cost $75Mn and wouldn't interfere with regular operations while the boring was being done.

The problem with the "S" curve at Elizabeth include the presence of stations and the loss of the adjacent property. It has been developed. Additionally, the speed through that area has gone from 55/55 to 55/65 to 70/75 and for the high speed trains, 80/85.  That's pretty significant and there are better uses for that money.

Frankford Jct could probabyl get straightened out a bit if they bought out some of the adjacent property to make a gentle, sloping curve. Again, there is no real reason to tunnel underneath anything.

This machine is needed in Baltimore!

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How has Elon Musk managed to magically reduce the costs of tunnels? Sorry, but I believe he is a snake oil salesman (even though I love the electric car). 
The claim is that TBC built 1.14 miles of 14 foot bore/12 foot finished tunnel for $10mn. If that is true, that is a huge reduction in price per mile. They did it by using a lot of new techniques, including increasing the power supply to the drill, building the tunnels concrete shroud while the drilling is ongoing, reducing the fill dirt waste disposal problem by pressing the waste dirt into usable bricks and other things that other companies had never tried all at the same time.
Is Musk puffing Godots capabilities? Probably yes, but if the price per mile was twice what he claims it is still a great achievement.

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Of the items mentioned by Ziv AFAICT, the only new thing is the "brick making" thing. The recent boring of the East-West Line 2 tunnel under the Hooghly River through muck in Kolkata used all of the others. So until they bother to publish some technical details and actual accounting of what cost how much, I remain skeptical. But that again is my job as a dispassionate observer of technology development. The Show Me thing, beyond puffed up press releases.

And of course a 14 foot bore is close to as small as the bores used by London Tube too. I am sure a ten foot bore would be even cheaper :lol:

Edited by jis

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6 hours ago, chrsjrcj said:

How has Elon Musk managed to magically reduce the costs of tunnels? Sorry, but I believe he is a snake oil salesman (even though I love the electric car). 

Mostly by eliminating the fraud and collusive markup by the construction mafia in the US.  In other words, he's done absolutely nothing other than not be part of the construction mafia.  Given enough money, you or I could have done the same thing, without knowing a damn thing.  We would have done better.

For more on the reasons costs are so high in the US:

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/01/why-its-so-expensive-to-build-urban-rail-in-the-us/551408/

Take special note of the contractors defrauding the state in Boston, the contractors defrauding the city in New York, and Tutor Perini's reputation for defrauding state agencies in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Basically, just by not *chiseling and scamming*, Musk can undercut most of the existing construction companies in the US.  Without actually using even one bit of new technology.

Edited by neroden

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The reviews of the test tunnel in LA were pretty bad - the cost was low because they were cheaply built and didn't include anything except a rough "track" for one of his cars. There were no environmental reviews (when they found the longer test tunnel they proposed would require reviews they cut it short), no infrastructure (elevators to get cars into the tunnel? Won't that be a chokepoint? Nor stations, ventilation, etc), etc...

In other words, he can build a tunnel cheaply, not not a usable tunnel cheaply (at least not yet).

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The reviews of the test tunnel in LA were pretty bad - the cost was low because they were cheaply built and didn't include anything except a rough "track" for one of his cars. There were no environmental reviews (when they found the longer test tunnel they proposed would require reviews they cut it short), no infrastructure (elevators to get cars into the tunnel? Won't that be a chokepoint? Nor stations, ventilation, etc), etc...
In other words, he can build a tunnel cheaply, not not a usable tunnel cheaply (at least not yet).
I think the elevator part of the concept is the weakest part. No wait, the skates are the weakest part. On third thought the training wheels are even worse! But it may be true that his company can build a 14' bore tunnel very inexpensively. And that, all by itself, would be the gem in a pile of dross.

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Then again it may all be pile of dross too

 

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