Elon Musk’s Boring Co. may pour millions more into San Antonio airport tunnel project – San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — As behind-the-scenes talks toward a proposed airport-to-downtown tunnel continue, Elon Musk’s Boring Co. has increased by as much as $15 million the amount it’s willing to put up to get the transit project going.

No agreements have been signed but the bigger offer and continuing discussions indicate the project is moving forward.

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Chair Michael Lynd Jr. said this week the regional transportation authority’s private discussions with the Pflugerville-based tunneling company have so far split the project into two segments, while Secretary/Treasurer David Starr said the Boring Co. has proposed spending as much as $60 million on the first phase.

“That’s a lot of money that’s not coming from taxpayers to improve community transportation,” Lynd said Wednesday. “I don’t see anybody else coming and giving us $50 million that’s not funded by taxpayers in some way, shape or form.”

On ExpressNews.com: RMA picks Elon Musk’s Boring Co. for airport-to-downtown loop project

It’s up from a range from $27 million to $45 million previously offered, Bexar County Engineer Renee Green said in an email response to questions this week.

The Boring Co. has proposed building a loop of tunnels to ferry passengers in Tesla electric vehicles between San Antonio International Airport and downtown. At an estimated cost from $247 million to $289 million, it said the system could carry as many as 112,000 passengers daily on a route along U.S. 281, producing annual revenue of up to $25 million for the RMA.

The company based its projections on carrying 10 percent of visitors who land at the airport.

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Chairman Michael J. Lynd, Jr., speaks during discussion at an Alamo RMA board meeting in March. The RMA board voted to begin negotiations with the Boring Co. on a transportation project aiming to carry passengers between San Antonio International Airport and downtown.

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Chairman Michael J. Lynd, Jr., speaks during discussion at an Alamo RMA board meeting in March. The RMA board voted to begin negotiations with the Boring Co. on a transportation project aiming to carry passengers between San Antonio International Airport and downtown.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

The RMA board in March voted 5-0 to negotiate a development deal with the Boring Co. Lynd said Wednesday it was on track to hire consultants to study route issues and financing by late this year.

Doubling down

The RMA board — whose members are appointed by Bexar County commissioners and its chair by Gov. Greg Abbott — have said they could provide revenue bond financing for the project. Revenue bonds are repaid with money generated by the enterprise for which the debt was issued.

In recent months, RMA board members have remained largely quiet on the progress of negotiations, but they continue to hold behind-the-scenes talks to discuss the project. On Wednesday afternoon, the board spent nearly 20 minutes in an executive session with their legal team at the county public works department building.

In interviews after the session, board members appeared to be doubling down on their promises that taxpayers won’t get stuck footing the bill for the project.

“If the Boring Company is willing to put the money into a project to prove out the project and expose themselves for $50 million to $60 million to prove out the project, that should be some credibility,” Starr said.

The principal of Clermont LLC, a San Antonio loan agency specializing in financing workforce housing properties, he said the RMA isn’t “really putting up any money, so we don’t have a financial responsibility to it.”

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Secretary/Treasurer David Starr speaks during an Alamo RMA board meeting in March. The RMA board voted to begin negotiations with Elon Musk's Boring Co. regarding a transportation project aiming to carry passengers between San Antonio International Airport and downtown.

Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Secretary/Treasurer David Starr speaks during an Alamo RMA board meeting in March. The RMA board voted to begin negotiations with Elon Musk’s Boring Co. regarding a transportation project aiming to carry passengers between San Antonio International Airport and downtown.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

“What the city should realize is do we want to be a sleeping city and just sit here and wait for progress to grow around us or do we want to be part of the growth process and have people say, ‘Look at San Antonio, look at them being creative and look at what they’re doing?’”

Lynd has repeatedly warned that the RMA lacks the billions of dollars needed for transportation projects to handle population growth in the coming decades. The authority primarily brings in money from annual vehicle registration and lacks the revenue stream its counterparts in other large metros have with toll roads.

The ongoing negotiations reflect his desire to solve the cash-flow problem and address future needs in San Antonio, one of the fastest-growing metros in the nation.

Secretive talks

Lynd, CEO of real estate developer Kairoi Residential, said the RMA has also been working with the Boring Co. to identify the route along U.S. 281.

“We’re still in the process of due diligence,” he said.“If we don’t like what we see or it doesn’t bear out or if we don’t think it’s feasibility, then we can stop.”

Secretive talks are a hallmark of The Boring Co.’s efforts in the region.

Since last summer, it has also been looking to collaborate with cities along the fast-growing Interstate 35 corridor to build an underground transportation loop connecting Austin and San Antonio. While those projects would rely heavily on tax dollars, The Boring Co. has been working with local officials largely in secret.

On ExpressNews.com: Secretive Elon Musk firm wants to build Austin-to-San Antonio tunnel loop for commuters

It has been operating a tunnel loop system at the Las Vegas Convention Center for more than a year. It’s also planning to build the Vegas Loop, a 29-mile underground system using Tesla model vehicles to transport passengers across the Las Vegas Strip and into downtown.

In May, the Boring Co. won a bid to build a $3 million pedestrian tunnel project in Kyle, a city about 60 miles northeast of San Antonio. In June, the company filed an application with the city of Austin to build a private tunnel beneath Tesla’s Gigafactory Texas in eastern Travis County.

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