Saturday, Feb 04, 2023

Infrastructure innovation derailed: How Facebook's failed plan to turn a century-old railway into a commuter bridge may serve as a warning for The Boring Company

Infrastructure innovation derailed: How Facebook's failed plan to turn a century-old railway into a commuter bridge may serve as a warning for The Boring Company

Elon Musk's Boring Company, which aims to create tunnels to cut down on traffic congestion in cities, has completed just one of six known projects.
Facebook's failed plans to revive an old railway bridge to ease traffic congestion near its offices are among the latest stumbling points facing future-looking tech companies as they try their hands at solving transportation woes.

The social media company planned to renovate the Dumbarton Rail Bridge — an unused railway spanning San Francisco Bay — after it acquired Instagram and Whatsapp, expanding employee headcount nearly ten-fold in six years from 3,200 in 2011 to over 25,000 workers by 2017.

The bridge was intended to streamline the increased traffic to its headquarters and expand Facebook's property portfolio, renovating the railway that laid dormant for 40 years.

The $20 million project — initiated in 2017 and abandoned in 2020 due to political hurdles and 1COVID1-19 complications, according to The New York Times, which published a deep dive into the failed project on Saturday — may be a glimpse at the future of Elon Musk's Boring Company, which has been described by The Wall Street Journal as "ghosting" major US cities by backing out of proposals to build tunnel systems.

The Boring Company, an infrastructure company that began as a subsidiary of SpaceX before separating in 2018, has promised since its inception to build high-speed tunnels in major cities in an effort to reduce traffic and improve pedestrian access. It raised $657 million in series C investment, giving the company a nearly $5.7 billion valuation.

Since the completion of its research and development test tunnel in Hawthorne, California in 2018, The Boring Company has completed just one project open to the public: a 1.7 mile loop connecting the campuses of the Las Vegas Convention Center with its Exhibit Hall. 

Plans for other tunnels — including projects in Los Angeles, connecting Washington, DC to Baltimore, and from the Chicago airport to its downtown neighborhood — have been scrapped by The Boring Company.

Los Angeles proposals to build tunnels under the congested 405 freeway and near Dodger Stadium were abandoned in 2018 and 2021, TechCrunch reported, after facing criticism from city council members for being "rushed." 

The DC to Baltimore transit system, announced in 2017, was canceled in 2021 following issues with environmental review processes and permitting delays, The Washington Post reported.

In Chicago, a 2018 bid by The Boring Company to build high-speed tunnels to the O'Hare Airport was dropped by June 2021, following public criticism of the lack of transparency surrounding the untested technology, The Chicago Business Journal reported. 

"Every time I see him on TV with a new project, or whatever, I'm like: Oh, I remember that bullet train to Chicago O'Hare," The Wall Street Journal reported Chicago city council member Scott Waguespack said, referring to Musk. 

Former senior executives of The Boring Company say the company is struggling to retain engineers and technical staff, given Musk's strict leadership style, which includes working 120-hour weeks and sleeping on couches in his factories and expecting employees to do the same.

The Boring Company was created after a series of seemingly joking 2016 tweets sent in the early morning hours by Musk, in which he complained about traffic and promised to start digging tunnels. 

"Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging...," he posted at 5:05 a.m. A few hours later he added: "I am actually going to do this."

While reporters and consumers immediately questioned whether Musk was serious about creating The Boring Company, early progress on its development silenced critics for several years.

Now, on its website, the only currently listed tunnel projects include modifications to the Las Vegas Loop. It's unclear whether The Boring Company will submit additional bids for tunnel projects in the future or complete the scheduled additions to the Vegas Loop.

Online, critics are voicing concerns that the whole company was a "scam" or "bait and switch" that was "designed to propose automobile alternatives to mass transit projects" and drive business toward his electric vehicle company, Tesla.

Despite its failed plan to materialize the Dumbarton Rail Bridge project, Facebook has continued massive infrastructure undertakings, largely in the form of submarine cable acquisition and development.

The social media company, rebranded as Meta since it began the cable development and scrapped the bridge plan, has acquired 6% of operating cable routes worldwide as of 2022, according to Fair Internet Report, a market research firm. By the time its 2Africa infrastructure project is completed, Meta will hold an interest in more than 13% of the world's submarine cable infrastructure, spanning 33 countries and touching 36% of the global population.

Though the future of The Boring Company's tunnels remains unclear, it appears Musk will continue to attempt to innovate existing infrastructure through his many businesses — including plans to use Tesla's energy storage technology to "shift the entire energy infrastructure and transport infrastructure of earth," Electrek, a transportation news service, reported.

Representatives for Facebook and The Boring Company did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

Related Articles

Tennessee Bill Would Imprison People for 3 Years If They 'Lie' About Rape to Get an Abortion.
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he will block Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Germany confirms it will provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Ronaldo's new contract...
Prince William's godmother resigns honorary royal role after exposing her/their racism
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman